Immaculata came to its first state Federation Tournament with a boisterous, blue-and-white cheering section complete with face-painted fans and their dancing bear mascot. And for a half, the Bears gave their boosters plenty to cheer about.
In the third quarter, South Jefferson gave plenty of reasons why it is undefeated.
State public school champion South Jefferson, known for its phenomenal three-point shooting, precise ball movement and suffocating defense, displayed all of them during an 18-7 third quarter which powered its 50-31 victory over Immaculata in the Federation Class B semifinals Friday afternoon before an estimated 500 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
"That's the best basketball team that I've ever coached against," said Immaculata coach Angelo Iafallo. "In every area: they're so disciplined, they hit the open floor, they hit the outside shot, they can score inside and they play tremendous 'D.' From one end of the floor to the other."
Afterwards, the team from the small Catholic school in Hamburg was concerned with much more than the end of its season. Four minutes into the fourth quarter, 5-foot-7 senior Colleen Quinn crashed to the floor and screamed in pain as she held her right knee. After the game was delayed 15 minutes, Quinn left the court in a stretcher and was taken to Glens Falls Hospital.
Quinn suffered a severe right ankle injury in January and still showed signs of it while throwing herself around the court Friday prior to the knee injury.
"We're devastated," said Iafallo. "She's our heart and soul. She's such a fierce competitor. You can't get a kid like that out of the game. It's tough to talk about. She's just a wonderful kid."
South Jefferson (28-0), the Section III champion from Adams, a town located about 60 miles north of Syracuse along Interstate 81, used its nine-player rotation to turn its 23-14 halftime lead to 20 entering the fourth. The Spartans pushed their lead to 27-14 on two inside baskets by Linsey Niles (13 points, 12 rebounds) and made it 41-21 by ending the quarter with a three-pointer by Danielle Felice (15 points, three three-pointers, six assists).
Immaculata (19-6) took an 8-6 lead early but fell behind, 11-8, at the end of the first quarter. The Bears went scoreless for the last 4:02 of the second quarter to fall behind, 23-14, at halftime.
Katelynn Benzing, a 5-11 junior, was named to the all-tournament team after a 15-point, six-rebound performance. Early on, Benzing and 6-1 junior Justine Smith (nine rebounds) made it tough for South Jefferson inside, while 5-2 senior point guard Kelly Bushen (three steals) and Quinn were able to beat full-court pressure single-handedly. South Jefferson will face Aquinas in today's 10:30 a.m. final.