Keshequa defense too much for Andover/Whitesville ladies, as season ends in Class D State Qualifier for back-to-back D2 champions in 46-32 defeat; campaign ends with 18-5 record overall
By CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
MOUNT MORRIS — It was a significant moment in Andover/Whitesville’s recent memory that the program won’t forget anytime soon. A Section V, Class D2 Championship over their longtime playoffs archrival in Elba — something that each school had come close to doing before in the Finals, but ultimately could not finish.
Now with back-to-back championship-winning seasons under their belts, Andover/Whitesville was on the hunt for more. And it would begin where their story previously left off a year ago: The Class D State Qualifier.
Their opponent was Class D1 champion Keshequa. Perhaps their toughest test of the season.
Andover/Whitesville would have to piece together one of their strongest 32 minute outings on the floor in order to make that climb over the summit for a chance to represent Section V in the Far West Regional. But for the Lady Indians, the challenge they brought to the table? One that certainly wasn’t going to be easy by any means.
They say all roads have to end somewhere. For the Class D2 champions, another magical ride of glory would end in Mount Morris.
In a fairly defensive battle throughout the first half, the Lady Indians were able to get the start they wanted to have, scoring 10 straight points out of the gate to remain in the driver’s seat until the finish. Although Andover/Whitesville found ways to chip at their deficit, which would reach as much as 15 at one point, it ultimately proved to be too much to overcome when the second half took effect, as Keshequa remained one step ahead to take the 46-32 decision to advance into the Far West Regional this weekend at Buffalo State University.
“Keshequa played really well tonight. They made it difficult for us to take care of the ball, they got a lot of offensive rebounds and their aggressiveness and physicality really affected us tonight,” said Andover/Whitesville co-coach Aaron Rawady. “We got it to four in the third quarter, and then they hit a couple of threes which really hurt. What momentum we were able to build, they were able to make things even more difficult. We had some looks that we usually finish, but with the amount of energy that we had to expend on both ends of the floor, it wasn’t going to happen. All the credit goes to them.”
Keshequa wasted no time striking while the iron was hot against Andover/Whitesville (18-5), as the defense settled in to force numerous turnovers to coincide with a number of second chance opportunities down low, as they built a strong 10-0 run in the first 2:30 of the battle. The 10-point margin was one they were able to secure for the time ahead, despite some occasions where Andover/Whitesville was able to chip away at the deficit.
That time came in the second quarter where they were able to get within reach of the Lady Indians. After a 17-6 lead captured by the Class D1 champions, Andover/Whitesville responded with the assistance of Vanessa Hall and Lexy Palmatier, as the two shooters combined to score all nine of the team’s points in the frame, including back-to-back runs to the rim to close out the first half down by a 22-15 count.
“It was good. Going down 10-0 early, the girls did a great job responding, but as soon as that happened, we wound up chasing Keshequa all game,” said Andover/Whitesville co-coach Jake Bannerman. “Even if we went on any sort of run, they still could have that 10-point cushion to fall back on. Cutting it down to as much as we could, was big, but just the amount of pressure and aggressiveness on defense, the girls were gassed. They physically and mentally exhausted us. They took advantage of everything, but for them to be that tired, they put in a lot of effort until the end. They never gave up.”
By the time the second half took effect, Andover/Whitesville was able to start strong by cutting their deficit to the smallest it would reach all game — four points, starting the third quarter with five of the first seven points. But before they were able to jumpstart any momentum against Keshequa, the team in white and orange halted it shortly after with a strong three-point response from Ava Thayer, who knocked two of them down on back-to-back drives to push the cushion back out to eight approaching midway.
After Thayer’s three-pointers assisted in regaining traction on Keshequa’s advantage, the Lady Indians were able to buckle down on defense from that point forward after another 17-point offensive spurt in turn, holding Andover/Whitesville to just five more points in the fourth quarter, pulling away towards triumph at the end of the night to clinch a spot in Saturday’s Regional.
Out of the team’s 32 points, Hall led Andover/Whitesville on the attack with a game-high 17 points, including a 5-for-8 outing at the charity stripe. Zoe Baert chipped in with seven points, while Palmatier and Kennedy Bledsoe each had three points.
Another phenomenal season for Andover/Whitesville is now over, as they finish off a campaign that saw them capture back-to-back Class D2 titles with a record of 18-5 overall. The battle would also mark the end of an incredible era of basketball not only for Andover and Whitesville, but for Allegany County as a whole, as the remarkable and historic career of Vanessa Hall has officially concluded its final chapter.
Hall will finish a titanic career as Whitesville and Allegany County’s All-Time leading scorer in girls basketball, having eclipsed well over 2,000 points in her high school career earlier this year. A mark that will now withstand the test of time.
To have an opportunity to coach one of the greatest to ever play the game in Allegany County, Rawady says that the thing that is often overlooked about his star senior is her character, noting the designation as something a coach always strives to have on their team.
“It’s been unreal getting the chance to coach her. She’s an outstanding basketball player, over 2,000 points in her career. She’s the best player this team has ever had, and in the County for girls basketball,” he said. “Where she doesn’t get enough recognition is how much of a team player she really is, and how much of an amazing person she is on top of that. She really cares about her teammates, and she has everything you could want in a player on a team. She even helps the girls and us coach sometimes when we need it. It’s been a real pleasure to coach her for what seems like 10 years, but I really wish we had 10 more with her.”
In the case of Rawady’s co-coach on the bench, Bannerman has had the opportunity over the years to witness Hall’s growth from two different standpoints, beginning during the senior’s rise to the County ranks before the two rivals merged as one, as Andover’s head coach before all the transpirations led to the present, where they have won two Section V titles together.
He says one thing has remained constant all these years: Hall was amazing to be around.
“It’s a lot better to game plan how to get her open on the floor, as opposed to not letting her do that,” Bannerman said. “That’s been a much more enjoyable experience, but it’s like Aaron said, she’s such a great kid. The rivalry we had before we merged, she was a big part of that on all those teams. But aside from it, I never felt like she had something against me or the girls. Vanessa embraced me, and she was really easy to help coach. A lot of times, phenomenal players like that can have an ego, but unless you watched her play, you would have no clue she was as good of a player as she has been. That’s really cool to see, and the attitudes of all the girls from Whitesville mixing in with our girls was even more cool to see. It’s a pleasure getting to know all of them. Gabbi (Hall) and Gabby T (Terhune) have been terrific, I’m so glad Kennedy (Bledsoe) came back to play, and the underclassmen behind them who continue to grow and contribute. It’s been a blast.”
When June comes, Hall will depart as one of five total seniors Andover/Whitesville will lose to graduation, as she joins Gabbi Hall, Kennedy Bledsoe and Zoe Baert in Whitesville, while Gabby Terhune will get set to walk across the stage herself in Andover.
As for what he will miss most about this group of seniors in particular, Bannerman says the amount of growth that they have showcased during his time with Rawady and the team, has been nothing short of extraordinary.
“The growth from the girls. You know what you’re going to get with Vanessa, she’s going to carry a majority of the load for us. Defensively, she doesn’t get enough credit where credit is due, but the girls behind her have really stepped up,” he said. “Going into Sectionals, the girls really committed to what their role was going to be. They embraced it, and they knew what they could do to help the team win. The girls were easy to coach in that regard, the practices were simple because they just knew. They bought into all of it, and their ability to do what they had to was really nice to see what it could translate to.”
Rawady added onto his five seniors and their contributions to the program over the years, saying that “This group of seniors has been phenomenal to coach. I’ve been fortunate enough to coach most of them in soccer, and in basketball, and it’s going to be tough for me next year in the Fall and Winter when those seasons start and they’re not out there. But I’ve loved every moment. Gabbi Hall, Gabby Terhune, Kennedy Bledsoe, Zoe Baert, these girls don’t get enough credit that they deserve because they’ve played with an amazing talent we were fortunate to have in Vanessa. We’ve said it for the past couple of years, and even Vanessa will tell you, but all of her success is because of what the others have been able to do on and off the floor. They’ve been outstanding teammates, outstanding kids off the court. It’s been an outstanding experience.”
Andover/Whitesville 6 9 12 5 – 32
Keshequa 17 5 17 7 – 46
ANDOVER/WHITESVILLE: Lexy Palmatier 1 1-2 3, Vanessa Hall 6 5-8 17, Gabby Terhune 1 0-2 2, Zoe Baert 2 3-4 7, Gabbi Hall 0 0-2 0, Kennedy Bledsoe 1 1-2 3. Totals: 11 10-20 32.
KESHEQUA: Braelyn Isaman 2 0-0 4, Ava Thayer 5 0-0 12, Kelsey Davis 2 0-0 4, Ryley Benner 3 1-2 8, Riley Nageldinger 1 0-2 2, Libby Benner 5 1-3 12, Julia Wilkins 2 0-4 4. Totals: 20 2-11 46.
3-point goals: Keshequa 4 (Thayer 2, R. Benner, L. Benner).
Total Fouls: A/W 16, Keshequa 22. Fouled out: Palmatier (A/W).
CHRIS BROOKS PHOTO GALLERY: