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Andover/Whitesville back to defend Section V title! Friendship/Scio’s incredible season ends (photos and story)

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By CHRIS BROOKS, sports editor, wellsvillesports.com

MOUNT MORRIS — And then, there were two.

Both Friendship/Scio and Andover/Whitesville girls basketball squads took a bus to the same destination Tuesday night for a chance to earn their spots in this weekend’s Class D2 Finals. But both teams would have their hands full against two quality opponents who were looking to make quite a bit of noise themselves in Mount Morris.

Friendship/Scio was first up in a 7/6 seed Semifinal matchup against a Class D juggernaut for many, many years — the Lady Lancers of Elba. For most of the battle, the No. 7 seeds gave the Lady Lancers everything they could handle, despite a slow start, to keep them on their feet.

But the Lady Lancers continued playing some of their best basketball of the season, as they capitalized on a strong start in the opening quarter to set the tone out of the gate. Despite a few late attempts by Friendship/Scio to chip away at their deficit, Elba would go on to put a lock on a trip to the Finals, rolling away and out of reach with eight of the game’s last 11 points to secure a 47-34 victory.

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“We shot almost 50 percent from two, but we could not put away the open looks from outside. Looking at where we’ve come from and the season we’ve had, I’m extremely proud,” said Friendship/Scio coach Ashleigh Lewis. “Every team goes home sad except for one, but I think we’ve surprised a lot of people that we’ve made it this far, myself and my dad (Duane Brubaker) included. Tonight was a battle after getting behind the first quarter. The jitters got to us, and Elba took advantage by holding the experience of being here. We were right with them across the rest of the game, and then we couldn’t hit the looks to end the game.”

Elba wasted no time springing into action with a first quarter outburst, as they scored eight consecutive points after an early 6-5 lead against Friendship/Scio (13-10) to garner more distance out front. The momentum shift would continue on, and the hole would become deeper for the team in purple and gold, trailing by as much as 13 at one point before working their way back to create a spark to close the first half, as Nevaeh Ross sank a clutch two with under 10 seconds left to pull the team within nine at the break.

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The Lady Lancers would go on to maintain their buffer zone ahead of Friendship/Scio across the third quarter, as both teams exchanged even pleasantries that allowed the No. 6 seeds to keep what was an eight-point, 39-31 lead intact heading into the last eight minute session.

In it, the No. 6 seeds would go on to secure their spot in the Finals on Friday with eight of the game’s final 11 points going in their favor to close up shop.

Leading the scoring for Friendship/Scio was Nevaeh Ross, who posted a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double, pairing them with five steals. Kadence Donohue chipped in with eight points, while Morghyn Ross had seven. On special teams, Lexi Crossley grabbed five additional rebounds off the glass.

The Cinderella story has officially ended for Friendship/Scio, as their incredible ride through the Class D2 bracket sees them finish with a record of 13-10 overall. The team will graduate four seniors at the end of the school year in Donohue, Claire Calhoun, Logan Roberts and Kiara Grover.

As for what lies ahead, Lewis hopes that this year’s ride through the playoffs — the first for both Friendship and Scio’s programs in nearly three decades, will give off a spark for the young talent who will look to step in and fill in four big pairs of shoes beginning next season.

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“This team did really well, we’re really proud of them. We lose four seniors and it will hurt. Claire is a great defender, Kadence is a great shooter, those are two big shoes to fill. Logan and Kiara have been two amazing role players that have grown so much over time,” she said. “We have some young talent coming up through the pipeline. They all did some great things during the season at JV, so there are a lot of bright things coming in the future. We hoped to go further, but these girls shouldn’t hang their heads over tonight. This won’t be the last time we’ll come back here again.”

As for Elba, they now wait in the wings for the victor of the evening’s final Semifinal battle between No. 5 Hammondsport and the defending Class D2 Champions themselves: top-seeded Andover/Whitesville.

The battle was fierce, as the Lady Lakers gave the Class D2 queens everything they could possibly handle across all 32 minutes on the hardwood. But in the end, a strong finish to one of the game’s most crucial quarters was just what the doctor ordered for Andover/Whitesville.

With Hammondsport gaining ground fast on both ends of the floor, Andover/Whitesville acted quickly with some strong closure in the third quarter, pushing what was a six-point lead out to double digits, where it would remain all throughout the quarter until late free throws saw them provide one final opportunity to chip away before time ran out on their season, as the defending champions punched their return ticket back to the Class D2 Finals with a 46-38 win over the Lady Lakers.

“Hammondsport made us work for everything tonight,” said Andover/Whitesville co-coach Aaron Rawady. “They are a well-coached group who play really hard. We were tested tonight in ways we weren’t used to. We struggled to take care of the ball, but we found a way to make up for that on the defensive end. We’re excited to be playing for another title, but we also know how difficult it will be again. Don’t let their seeding fool you, but Elba is really, really good. We will have to play our best basketball if we want to compete.”

Andover/Whitesville (17-4) found their groove through the opening eight minutes after a Sam Pratt triple saw the Lady Lakers reach the board first, as the top seeds rattled off nine straight points while keeping Hammondsport at a complete standstill on the opposite end of the floor to claim the night’s first lead.

Both teams would trade a pair of nine-point frames to help close out the first half, which would allow Andover/Whitesville to keep their lead intact going into the second half. In the new session, the Lady Lakers would find an opening in the Andover/Whitesville defense to climb through, chipping away at their deficit with five straight points after a 25-17 lead by the top seeds was garnered just past midway.

Free throws would begin to come in through the clutch for Andover/Whitesville, as Kennedy Bledsoe and Graci Lewis-Ellison combined to deliver three huge shots out of four at the charity stripe to branch the team’s lead back out to six. The spark would ignite into a scoreless run that the team would end the third quarter with, as they closed up shop with a 12-point, 35-22 lead of the Lady Lakers courtesy of a 10-0 run.

“We got a little bit separated in the third quarter, but they were still relentless against us in the fourth quarter. They made the game tight again. But we were able to hang on with a couple of late baskets and some key free throws toward the end to help us out in a big way,” said Rawady.

Hammondsport would save their best offensive spurt of the night, for last, as they posted a 16-point frame to try and keep the pressure on Andover/Whitesville until the end. But as for the top seeds, Vanessa Hall would step up to the plate to help create a big finish for her squad, as she posted 10 of the team’s 12 points from within the frame to officially seal up their return trip back to the Class D2 Finals this weekend after a tough battle with the Lady Lakers.

Hall would finish as Andover/Whitesville’s top scorer with a game-high 22 points. Bledsoe would follow behind after a strong game down low herself, pitching in 14 points. Lewis-Ellison chipped in with five points, all from the charity stripe.

A rematch of last season’s Semifinal round will now take center stage at Letchworth as this year’s Class D2 Championship game on Friday, if weather permits, as the long-standing Sectional rivalry between Elba and Andover/Whitesville will reignite one more time with a 6 p.m. tip-off to decide it all.

Friendship/Scio 8 11 12 3 – 34

Elba 19 9 11 8 – 47

FRIENDSHIP/SCIO: Nevaeh Ross 6 2-7 14, Logan Roberts 1 0-2 2, Kadence Donohue 3 0-1 8, Morghyn Ross 3 0-0 7, Lexi Crossley 1 1-4 3. Totals: 14 3-14 34.
ELBA: Halie Deville 0 4-6 4, Lydia Ross 1 0-2 2, Sydney Reilly 5 0-2 12, Kennedy Augello 3 2-4 11, Ava Buczek 0 3-4 3, Ava Chatt 2 1-4 5, Maddie Hall 2 0-0 4, Mariah Ognibene 2 2-4 6. Totals: 15 12-26 47.

3-point goals: F/S 3 (Donohue 2, M. Ross), Elba 5 (K. Augello 3, Reilly 2).
Total Fouls: F/S 19, Elba 18. Fouled out: Ross (ELB).

Hammondsport 3 9 10 16 – 38

Andover/Whitesville 9 9 17 12 – 47

HAMMONDSPORT: LaZell Locey 2 3-4 7, Arielle Szathmary 1 0-0 2, Danica Dresser 3 1-4 8, Nichole Pratt 3 0-0 7, Sam Pratt 5 1-2 14. Totals: 14 5-10 38.
ANDOVER/WHITESVILLE: Lexy Palmatier 1 0-0 2, Vanessa Hall 9 4-6 22, Graci Lewis-Ellison 0 5-8 5, Zoe Baert 0 0-6 0, Gabbi Hall 2 0-0 4, Kennedy Bledsoe 4 6-9 14. Totals: 16 15-29 47.

3-point goals: Hammondsport 5 (S. Pratt 3, Dresser, N. Pratt).
Total Fouls: Hammondsport 23, A/W 13. Fouled out: Locey (HAM).

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