TROY – The ball was in the right hands.
The chances were there.
The shots just didn’t fall, at least not when the Franklinville girls basketball team needed them to the most.
Down, 54-51, with 34 seconds left in overtime of the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class D championship against Section IV’s Delaware Academy, sophomore sensation Danielle Haskell had three attempts from three-point range, each one seemingly farther away, to bring the game even and possibly send it to another extra period.
The first shot hit the rim and deflected off a Bulldogs rebounder out of bounds with 20.4 seconds to go. The second try rimmed out and a jump ball gave the Panthers possession with 5.6 left.
The final heave hit the backboard and was caught cleanly by Delhi’s Olivia Wakin, who dribbled out the final seconds on the clock.
— NYSPHSAA (@NYSPHSAA) March 18, 2018
Franklinville’s first loss of the season ended up being its only one.
Even if Panthers (25-1) coach Allan Dunlap had the chance, he still wouldn’t have changed a thing about the closing seconds. Other than seeing the ball go in the hoop.
“The shots that Dani got, they’re 50-50 shots,” Dunlap said at Hudson Valley Community College. “I know they were bombs, but she works on those shots all the time. So if she shoots them again, I bet they go in. I would take those again in a heartbeat.”
So would Bulldogs (24-2) coach Todd Bruce.
“I really thought we did a good job late in the game of pushing her that extra step or two away from the basket,” Bruce said. “To get her to go from that 22-23 foot range to 25 or 26, which she does I know, but the odds gotta be in your favor at some point.”
The odds weren’t in Delhi’s favor at the end of regulation after Dani Haskell made the first of two free throws to give Franklinville a 46-43 lead with 6.1 seconds left.
With its top three-point shooter Kaitlynn Finch fouled out, Bruce drew up a play for his daughter, Logan, who faked a baseline drive and drained a step-back three from the corner at the buzzer. She finished with 16 points and was named tournament MVP.
— NYSPHSAA (@NYSPHSAA) March 18, 2018
“It was defended the way we wanted to through our scouting report,” Dunlap said. “Their strength’s not their three-point shooting. Our philosophy was we were going to contest it and play our percentage in that respect. It just didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”
Much of the game did for the Panthers, though, against an extremely aggressive and physical Delhi group that forced 29 turnovers and had 17 steals in the semifinals. Franklinville had only 10 turnovers, five coming on steals, but shot 28 percent (15-53) from the field and 26 percent from three (8-26).
“We didn’t have one easy shot the whole night,” Dunlap said. “Gotta give them credit. They’re a good basketball team.”
Dani Haskell had two of her four three-pointers and scored eight points in a first quarter that ended in a 9-9 tie. Senior Allyson Haskell made two threes in the last 1:25 of the first half, and the Panthers led 22-19 at the break.
Danielle Haskell accounted for most of the Franklinville offense in the 1st quarter, including this 3. The Panthers and Delaware Academy are tied at 9 after one quarter in the Class D state title game. pic.twitter.com/hHBvNQ5F7r
— Spectrum News BUF (@SPECNewsBuffalo) March 18, 2018
Delhi took a 25-24 lead 3:24 into the third quarter but Franklinville ended on an 11-5 run and held a 35-30 advantage heading into the final frame.
The Panthers opened their largest lead 3:22 into the fourth quarter, 42-35, but only managed four more points the rest of the way before Bruce sent it into overtime.
Senior Olivia Walkin scored five of her team-high 19 in the extra period and gave Delhi a 52-51 lead with 51.7 seconds left. Freshman and younger sister Sophia made two more free throws 17 seconds later for the final points.
Dani Haskell finished with a game-high 33 points and five rebounds, while Ally added 12 points and six rebounds. Both sisters were named to the Class D all-tournament team.
“Just as much as Danielle is sad about losing this game and Ally’s sad about losing this game, they’re equally as sad for each other in the fact that the season’s over,” an emotional Dunlap said. “And it’s genuine, they’re just two of the greatest kids I’ve ever coached. No doubt about it.”
Dani and Ally were the unquestionable stars, but Franklinville doesn’t win its first Section VI title since 1987 or make its first final four appearance since 1982 without contributions from all 11 girls on the team.
Dunlap, hurting just as much as the players, expressed that in the locker room. His message was that what the Panthers were able to accomplish this year doesn’t get lost just because of Sunday’s outcome.
“For me, personally, I’m never going to forget them,” Dunlap said. “Their faces are etched in my memory forever because it was the best team I’ve ever coached, and not just basketball players. ... We always talk about being different, and they were different. They’re different in a great way.”