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Panama takes down North Collins for Class D2 championship

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OBSERVER Photo by Lisa Monacelli North Collins’ Makenna Williams sets a ball during Thursday’s Class D2 sectional final against Panama at JCC.

Having lost just one set all season entering Thursday, it was interesting to see how No. 2 Panama would respond to a lost second set in the Section VI Class D2 final against No. 1 North Collins.

The answer was a resounding “just fine.”

Tammy Hosier’s team scored 17 of the first 21 points of the third set, eventually prevailing 25-13, before winning the final set 25-19 to clinch its fourth straight sectional title at Jamestown Community College’s Physical Education Complex.

“This never gets old,” Panthers senior Kylie Schnars said. “This is the best feeling in the world, other than winning states.”

Panama will now have to deal with Class D1 champion Randolph on Tuesday at 7 p.m. after the Cardinals beat Cassadaga Valley 25-9, 17-25, 25-16, 25-22 in Thursday’s first final.

“Coach Hosier is really good about keeping our main goal – state champs – way in the back,” senior Natalie Angeletti said. “We try to take the mindset of one game at a time and work our way up.”

Panama hopes Thursday is a sign of things to come because after their previous three crowns it won the crossover final and Far West Regional before playing in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four in Glens Falls – winning it all in 2016.

North Collins was certainly up to the challenge of taking on the three-time defending sectional champions Thursday.

The top-seeded Eagles led 7-6 early in the first set and were tied with the Panthers as late as 10-10 but Kylie Schnars had four kills in a five-point span as Panama took a 20-11 lead. With McKenna Rice at the service line, North Collins actually cut the deficit to 22-19, but Angeletti responded to a Deanne Wilson dig with a kill to make it 23-19.

The Panthers’ Ashlyn Harvey eventually ended the set with a deep kill.

The Eagles never let Panama lead in the second set despite the teams being tied at 1-1, 2-2, 6-6 and 10-10. North Collins then scored six of the next seven points, the last three with Karissa Spicola at the service line, to take a 16-11 lead.

“It was better decision making offensively,” North Collins head coach Dave Burgstahler said. “We were a little stale offensively in the first set and we moved the ball around a little more in the second set.”

With Marra Hovey serving late, the Panthers made it 22-19 after a kill and two blocks from Schnars, but an emphatic kill from Wilson and a finishing tap from McKenna Rice gave the set for the Eagles.

“They were playing their game on offense and when we were on defense we didn’t handle it very well,” Hosier said. “We were letting balls drop and had some mixups in communication.”

“The second game, I thought we turned the corner and had some momentum,” Burgstahler said, “but it didn’t really show in that third set with that slow start.”

Facing some of its only adversity of the season, Panama came out firing in the third set.

Schnars had a block and six kills during an opening 14-3 run, spitting out her gum she was so excited celebrating the final kill.

“We were completely freaked out after that second set for some reason,” Schnars said. “We came back and played amazing.”

Armed with a 19-10 lead, Angeletti took over with a tap finish, a block and a kill to make it 22-10 with Mandy Brink at the service line. The Panthers wrapped up the set when a North Collins serve fell short of the net.

“We are good at staying together and getting back at it because it’s a new start,” Angeletti said.

The Eagles hung around in the fourth set, never letting the deficit become greater than six points, but Panama was too much and eventually put the match away when a North Collins spike went long.

“We talked about it before tonight that it was going to be an up-and-down battle,” Hosier said. “We had to keep that team mentality and believe in each other.”

Now the Panthers will deal with a Cardinals squad that they defeated in the Falconer Tournament earlier this season.

“They are very scrappy and have a lot of good hitters,” Angeletti said. “We have to work on blocking and being ready to play everything.”

“They are a good team, they’re well-coached,” Hosier added. “They are going to come out to win and move on.”

NOTES: Schnars had 28 kills and Angeletti had 19. … Hovey had 23 digs, Brink 14, Ally Finnerty 13 and Maddie Johnson 12. … Johnson also led with 44 assists. … Wilson had 13 kills, Michaela Rice had seven and McKenna Rice had five. … Makenna Williams had 18 assists.

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