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Emotional ending as GV/Belfast just misses knocking off Batavia Notre Dame in sectionals (photo gallery, story, boxscore)

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By CHRIS BROOKS, wellsvillesports.com

GAINESVILLE — At this stage of the game, every team left standing now has to be at the top of their a-game if they want a chance to have a taste of the championship glory that awaits at the end of the Sectional tunnel.

The keyword used by Genesee Valley/Belfast head coach Jim Schneider entering the team’s first Class D1 Semifinal appearance as a combined team, was composure — one of basketball’s major elements, especially when you face a team that can figure out multiple ways to shell out pressure in order to provide an overwhelming presence.

The Lady JagDogs needed a giant dose of it against a Notre Dame-Batavia team that can quickly throw everything at you, all at once. Fortunately enough, the three-seeds in the first eight minutes provided an immaculate and composed quarter of defense, holding the Lady Irish virtually scoreless while taking the lead in their own right.

But not all things will linger on, as the two-seeds immediately shook it off in the second quarter and going forward, leaving a first quarter full of woes in the rearview mirror. Instead, a defensive battle brewed inside the cauldron that was of Letchworth, Monday night.

A game where points came at an absolute luxury.

Composure was a big element that Genesee Valley/Belfast had put on display for much of the battle with Notre Dame-Batavia. But when it came to garnering the points they needed, another element began to surface — clutch. Each team had their fair share in a back and forth heat through the final eight minutes. Multiple ties, runs, even stands of defense being exchanged.

It would all come down to the last 90 seconds of the war, and when it mattered most, the Lady Irish delivered the deadly strike.

With next to a minute left in regulation and the game tied at 26-all, Notre Dame-Batavia’s Maylee Green provided that clutch gene to propel the two-seeds forward, knocking down a pair of fourth quarter threes, the latter of which giving the Lady Irish the 29-26 lead to control their own destiny. They would go on to add two more points at the charity stripe with seconds remaining to officially put the game on ice, booking a return trip back to the Class D1 Finals with a 31-26 victory over the Lady JagDogs.

“The first thing that came out of my mouth at halftime, was me telling the girls that there were 16 minutes of basketball left,” said Schneider. “It’s a 32-minute game, and we had to finish. We really chipped hard late in the game, and we just could not get a basket to fall no matter how hard we tried. We had good looks, and Harley helped us stay in it toward the end. But when their shooter from outside hit two of those big threes from the wing, they did their job.”

The go-ahead three-ball from Green and the Lady Irish came on the heels of what was a low-scoring, defensive affair against the Lady JagDogs (16-6), who supplied one of, if not, their best eight minutes of basketball this season right from the get-go.

Genesee Valley/Belfast went on to gather a 6-2 lead, one that saw Mary Hamer collect four of the game’s first five points from underneath to give her team the lead in the early going. But on the defensive side, the Lady JagDogs only gave up the two points from two separate instances at the charity stripe — they would hold the Lady Irish without a shot from the field.

Right after pitching the offensive shutout in the first eight minutes, Notre Dame-Batavia would shake it off in favor a back-and-forth exchanging of pleasantries through the second quarter, ultimately resulting in multiple ties, including a 12-12 tie that would end the first half of play.

The trend continued onward into the early stages of the third quarter, when each team exchanged four points worth of baskets on the same teeter-totter pace. But a slight opening was created by the Lady Irish just past midway, with Avelin Tomidy leading the way with five big points out of the team’s 11 total in the frame that accounted for an 11-4 run to take their biggest lead of the game at that point — of five.

“We witnessed something that was pretty impressive, and they’re a nice team. To hold them to just 31 points is even more impressive,” Schneider said. “This is a little bigger court here, and I thought we started to get a little tired midway through the third quarter. It hurt us, because they hit some quick shots, some key three-pointers. I don’t know if it was total fatigue, but the girls were frustrated. Notre Dame did their part, and unfortunately we couldn’t swing fast enough to stop them.”

The lead was branched, with the first of two Green three pointers, to eight for the Lady Irish coming just past midway in the fourth quarter. But Genesee Valley/Belfast, despite falling behind in their largest deficit faced throughout the evening, fought back with a vengeance.

Trailing by a 26-18 count, the Lady JagDogs found a way to hit all strides, as Harley Proctor and Mary Hamer collaborated and engineered a massive 8-0 run of Notre Dame-Batavia that saw them come all the way back to tie the game one last time at 26 with under three minutes left to play, with Proctor scoring five of the eight points. Anna Drozdowski helped the cause with the game-tying point at the charity stripe a short time later.

The game would remain tied as such all the way until the game’s final 90 seconds, when the Lady Irish delivered a monstrous dagger from Green outside, landing a back-breaking three-pointer that gave them the lead back and ultimately for good. With little time remaining, the foul game was on for the Lady JagDogs, but for the two-seeds, they kept the ball out of their reach to vacuum all of the time down until there was none that remained.

To seal the win, Emma Sisson landed a pair of free throws with two seconds remaining to officially punch the defending Class D1 Champions ticket back to the Finals once again.

When it was all said and done, Hamer was Genesee Valley/Belfast’s leading scorer, as she garnered a game-high 14 points. Proctor would finish with her five fourth quarter points, while Alicia Borden had four to add.

If you had asked Schneider at the beginning of the season if they would have made this stage of the season, he wouldn’t have believed you.

“A while ago, the goal I had originally set was to be at .500 and come into Sectionals right in the middle of the pack, and then do what we did tonight as far as our effort. Never did I think that we would be a number three seed, and then do what we’ve done to get here,” he said. “I’m very, very impressed with the girls, and I love how they have been able to handle themselves all season. It was great to have Genesee Valley along for this experience, because Adison (Grusendorf) and Addy (Herring) have been absolutely incredible for us this season. We wouldn’t have gotten here without them.”

The ride is over for a Lady JagDogs team that officially wraps up their first season together as Allegany County Division II Champions with an overall record of 16-6 — a marker that wouldn’t have been possible without the team’s mid-season hot streak to ride into Sectionals with.

Schneider says their first meeting with Andover/Whitesville back in January was what kicked the tires from within a tear that saw his team win 12 of their final 14 regular season games to pick up one of Class D1’s top seeds entering the second season.

“Early on, these girls were concerned that they couldn’t play basketball until that night. I think the Andover/Whitesville win really began to strike some bones. It switched a light on for them,” he said. “We did everything imaginable in that game, and that’s how it started. Hopefully we can start making these runs now. Now that we have upperclassmen that can compose themselves, we can bring the younger girls in and really start to develop. That was the conversation we had at the end of the game.”

But the Lady JagDogs will look to do it all over again without their Seniors, some of which Schneider has had since the beginning of his coaching career with the program. The team will say goodbye to Alicia Borden, Kaitlin Sadler, Addy Herring, Lexi Burrows, Aissata Diabate and Paige Cochran.

“I’ve had Alicia for four years, and it’s going to be difficult to give her up. She has a bright future ahead of her, and you can’t work her too hard either. She is our hardest worker, she finishes first in every drill that we’ve run in practice. I love her to death,” said Schneider. “Kait Sadler is two years away from being at the level everyone else is at now, because she started late. I told her that I wished I started coaching her right when I first started, otherwise she would be there now. Addy Herring, she’s always come to practice smiling every day, working her tail off. Aissata, this was something that she’s never experienced before, and she broke down crying after the game. My seniors are incredible, and I wish that I had every one of them back for next year.”

Genesee Valley/Belfast 6 6 4 10 – 26

Notre Dame-Batavia 2 10 11 8 – 31

GV/BELFAST: Alicia Borden 2 0-0 4, Anna Drozdowski 0 1-4 1, Adison Grusendorf 1 0-0 2, Mary Hamer 7 0-0 14, Kaitlin Sadler 0 0-2 0, Harley Proctor 2 0-0 5. Totals: 12 1-6 26.
ND-BATAVIA: Emma Sisson 3 3-4 9, Avelin Tomidy 2 1-1 5, Maylee Green 2 0-0 6, Nina Bartz 0 1-2 1, Judah MacDonald 1 2-2 5, Lindsey Weidman 2 1-3 5. Totals: 10 8-12 31.

3-point goals: GVB 1 (Proctor), ND-B 5 (Green 2, Weidman 2, MacDonald).
Total Fouls: GVB 14, ND-B 14. Fouled out: Borden (GVB).

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