TROY − Fredonia’s girls basketball fought out of a huge hole at the beginning to get within striking distance, but couldn’t finish the sale. The Hillbillies dropped a 69-57 decision to Irvington Friday in a New York State semifinal at Hudson Valley Community College.
Irvington advanced to the Class B final against Seton Catholic on Saturday afternoon.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Fredonia coach Carol Zirkle said. “They’ve worked so hard, and they just kept fighting. Even with a minute or so to go, they thought they could pull it out.”
Like any worthwhile piece of drama, the game fell neatly into three acts. The first half of play belonged to the Bulldogs, as they pulled out to a 28-13 lead. A 14-0 run that straddled the first and second quarters was Irvington’s tool to take command.
“We did what we wanted to do,” Bulldogs coach Gina Maher said. “We pressed, got shots, got some rebounds.”
“We usually don’t start off so well,” Irvington guard Heather Hall said. “We usually start slowly.”
Irvington seemed to adjust faster to playing on the state’s biggest stage. Fredonia made several turnovers and fouls in the early going that didn’t help its case. The Bulldogs passed the ball well and scored all of their first-half field goals from right around the basket.
“They were a little quicker than we thought, and maybe it was just nerves that hurt us,” Zirkle said.
After some regrouping at halftime, Fredonia came out like a different team. The Hillbillies took better care of the basketball, and were aggressive going to the basket. That’s how a team that scored 13 points in the first 16 minutes scored 31 in the next eight.
It helped Fredonia that Katie Price had the quarter, and game, of her life. The junior guard had 20 of those 31 points in the last six minutes of the period.
“At first I hesitated to take shots, but we were getting inside a lot,” said Price.
“She was amazing,” Zirkle said. “That’s a career game for her. She’s our best driver, and she always gives it her all.”
What seemed like a romp at halftime turned into a 50-44 contest when Price hit a 15-footer at the third-period buzzer. Fredonia had erased a majority of a lead that had gone as high as 18 points in the second quarter.
However, the Bulldogs didn’t come into the game with a 23-1 record for no reason. They settled down and went back to work in the fourth quarter.
“We dug in again,” Maher said. “We played good defense, and changed some things around.”
Irvington started the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run that made it a 13-point Bulldogs’ lead with five minutes to play. Fredonia never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Caitlyn Cybart had nine points for Fredonia, while Hannah Cybart had eight. Lindsay Halpin led Irvington with 26 points.
This wasn’t the way Fredonia wanted to have its season end, of course. But it won’t take long for everyone connected to the team to realize how remarkable a run it was.
“We were the sixth seed in the section - the sixth seed in the section!” Zirkle said. “After the first game we’ve always been on the road, and we’ve played better and better. We showed amazing heart.
“To be playing this late in March is incredible. We were watching the college tournament together last night in the hotel - we’ve never done anything like that before. The support of the community, the parents and the school have been amazing.”