HENRIETTA — Frank Martin considers himself only a tad superstitious.
So the hat commemorating the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team’s 2017 national championship he sported on Saturday — complete with "FINAL FOUR" in bold type — wasn’t a way of hoping his own team experienced a similar fate. It’s simply his basketball hat, the one he’s been wearing all season.
Still, his headwear was fitting, because just like last year’s Tar Heels, Martin’s Allegany-Limestone girls basketball team is going to a final four. Behind 18 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks from 6-foot-1 forward Morgan Davis, the Gators defeated South Seneca, 52-43, in Class C Far West Regionals on Saturday evening at Rush-Henrietta High School. They’ll play in the state semifinals Friday.
"If you’re into (superstition), maybe," Martin said of whether his hat had a correlation with what was at stake. "But I’m not going to take it off just yet, so we’ll continue to wear it."
The Gators’ victory was one of the biggest in program history. It qualified Allegany-Limestone for the state tournament for the first time since the two schools merged in 1995-96. Allegany went to the state finals twice before that.
The Gators, owners of numerous sectional titles the last 20-plus years, have established themselves as a power program in the area. And by finally getting past the regional blockade, they’ve bolstered their credentials even more.
"I think the difference is I have five seniors, four of them start," Martin said. "We’ve talked all year long about how we have to play with intensity and poise. I thought we played with poise when we had to and we played with intensity all night."
A-L (23-1) excelled at the fundamentals to advance to its first final four as a joint program, going 17 of 20 from the free-throw line and playing stifling defense. Challenging South Seneca’s slew of outside sharpshooters keyed the strong defensive effort.
"When we started getting out to shooters more, that helped a lot, and we got a lot of hands in passing lanes," senior forward Shaelynn Maley said.
Maley, who Martin referred to as "unsung" for her many contributions to the squad, finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Brooke Giardini nailed a pair of 3-pointers en route to 10 points and six rebounds. Tierney Hemphill (seven points) and Molly Wolfgang (five points) had four assists apiece.
There is something in the air at A-L. The school’s girls soccer team won a state title in the fall, and with the basketball team having seven players from that group, it is riding a wave of confidence and momentum.
"Knowing that the soccer girls made it, we all just talked about how we knew we could get to states," said Davis, a senior in her fifth varsity season. "We just had to put our pieces together and work together."
A-L will play III-Syracuse Academy of Science in the semifinals at 11:45 a.m. Friday at Hudson Valley CC.
Story topics: Allegany-Limestone