Magical run comes to end

Fredonia falls to Irvington in state semifinals, 69-57

Photos by Matt Spielman At left, Fredonia’s Hannah Gullo looks to make a pass during the Lady Hillbillies’ NYSPHSAA girls basketball Class B semifinal game against Section I’s Irvington at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. At right, Katie Price looks to go up for a shot.

TROY — Fredonia traveled to Troy with big dreams after winning the first Far West Regional banner in school history.

But a poor first half proved too much to overcome as the Lady Hillbillies fell to Irvington, 69-57, in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B semifinals on Friday afternoon.

In the opening 16 minutes, the Section VI champions crumbled in the face of the Lady Bulldogs’ full-court press at the Edward F. McDonough Sports Complex at Hudson Valley Community College, turning the ball over 20 times leading to 17 Irvington points as the Section I champs built a 28-13 halftime advantage.

“I didn’t expect us to struggle as much as we did. I thought that we had prepared for it,” Fredonia coach Carol Zirkle said of the press. ” … They were just a little quicker than we thought. … I thought that we made poor decisions in the press and I thought we panicked a lot.”

Irvington also hurt Fredonia on the glass in the first two quarters, leading to several second-chance opportunities that resulted in eight points.

“They rebounded very well, I thought that was also the difference in the game,” Zirkle said. “They got too many offensive rebounds and we did not box out the way we are capable of boxing out.”

The Lady Hillbillies came alive in the third quarter, led by junior Katie Price who scored 20 of her game-high 29 points in the period. Fredonia outscored the Lady Bulldogs, 31-22, and cut its deficit to six on a Price jumper at the buzzer.

“In the first half we did exactly what we wanted to do. We pressured, we ran our transition and things were clicking,” Irvington coach Gina Maher said. “In the second half they just came out and were shooting the lights out of the gym.”

But blessed with a clean sheet of team fouls to open the final eight minutes, Irvington again set up its suffocating press. Much like in the opening eight minutes, the Lady Hillbillies struggled to find an answer to the pressure — this time more of a three-quarter-court trapping version — turning the ball over on four of their first five possessions.

“Our mindset was to just play hard the whole time. Even if they caught up a little bit, we just kept going back and forth in their faces,” Irvington junior Kelly Degnan said. “They hit a 3-point shot and then we had a fast break and a steal.”

The Lady Bulldogs turned those bonus possessions into six quick points as the lead ballooned to 13 with just over three minutes remaining. A Hannah Cybart three-point play cut the Lady Hillbillies’ deficit to nine with 2:06 remaining, but back-to-back turnovers on the next two possessions made the comeback less likely.

“With a minute left we still thought we could get it. A couple breakdowns on defense and they get a couple layups,” Zirkle said. “We just didn’t quite play as well as I thought we could play.”

Caitlyn Cybart hit a 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining to cut the Fredonia deficit to eight, but three 3-point attempts in the closing seconds came up empty for the Lady Hillbillies.

Caitlyn Cybart was the only Fredonia player other than Price in double figures with 10 points. Hannah Cybart grabbed 13 rebounds and Price grabbed six while Zoya Katta picked up four steals.

“We have had an amazing last three years, four for some of them. They have given so much to this program. They have worked so hard day in and day out. … It’s the hardest-working group from first player to last player,” Zirkle said. “… This group of seniors has really developed the connections within the team. It’s the closest-knit team that I’ve ever coached.”

Lindsay Halpin had 26 points and Degnan added 17 for Irvington, which will take on Seton Catholic in today’s 4 p.m. final. The Section IV champion advanced by virtue of a 79-54 win over Section VII champion Beekmantown in Friday’s first semifinal.

“We’re so excited, me especially, because it’s my senior year,” Halpin said. “I just really want to win just one.”

Degnan also grabbed nine rebounds while Mia Mascone had eight rebounds in the win. Halpin handed out six assists, Heather Hall scored 11 points and Olivia Valdes picked up four steals for the Bulldogs.

NOTES: Fredonia was 17 of 47 from the field, including 4 of 18 from beyond the 3-point arc, while going 19 of 26 from the free throw stripe. … Irvington was 26 of 63 from the field, including 1 of 12 from deep, while hitting 14 of 20 free throws. … Katta and Hall were the NYSPHSAA Sportsmanship Award winners for the game while Price will represent Fredonia on the Class B All-Tournament Team when it is finalized today.