CLIFTON PARK The season ended as it began for the Johnstown field hockey team, with a loss at Shenendehowa High School.
The top-seeded Lady Bills, the defending Section II Class B champions, lost 3-1 to No. 2 seed Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake on Sunday in this year's title game.
Johnstown, which was making its fourth straight appearance in the Class B title game, had won 17 straight games coming into Sunday's game, having gone unbeaten since a season-opening loss at Shenendehowa.
Johnstown’s Emma Heroth (16) walks off the field after the Lady Bills’ 3-1 loss to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in the Section II Class B championship game at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)
During that run, the Lady Bills had outscored the opposition 87-4, though Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake came within in a goal of matching that total Sunday.
"We're not just happy being here. It's a big disappointment," Johnstown coach Tracy Ringer said. "We wanted to win and defend our championship. Right now, the 17 wins we had this year seem irrelevant. Most of the girls would have traded every one of them for a win today."
In its first championship-game appearance since winning the Class B title in 2007, Burnt Hills got goals from Christina Krowel, Amy LeBel and Aubrey Kamppila on its way to the win.
Class A Championship
Niskayuna 1, Shenendehowa 0, OT
Class B Championship
Burnt Hills 3, Johnstown 1
Class C Championship
Greenwich 1, Hoosick Falls 0, strokes
"We treated this game just like any other game," Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake coach Kelly Vrooman said. "We went out and didn't play nervous. We just played our game."
The Lady Spartans needed just 4:49 to score the game's first goal against a Johnstown defense that had posted 13 shutouts this season.
Krowel scored on an assist from LeBel on a penalty corner by Kamppila as Burnt Hills pushed the action early.
"Getting that first goal so quickly gave us a little comfort and settled us in," Vrooman said.
Johnstown spent the rest of the first half pushing for the equalizer, ending the first half with a 5-3 edge in shots and a 9-2 advantage in penalty corners.
The Lady Bills finally pulled even with 47 seconds left in the first half when Ashley Dona put home her own rebound to make it 1-1 at the break. The goal was Dona's 39th of the season.
"Johnstown dominated most of the first half, but we were able to hold them off for the most part and went into the half tied," Vrooman said.
The Lady Bills carried their momentum into the second half, controlling the action in the early going and nearly taking the lead on a shot by Hope Cerasuolo. However, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake goalie Brittany Ryan kicked the ball away to preserve the 1-1 tie.
Ryan finished with 10 saves for Burnt Hills, while Alyssa Pertell made four saves for Johnstown.
"We got off to a slow start. We weren't playing our game," Ringer said. "After the first 15 minutes, I felt like we settled in. When we tied it up, I thought we would be OK. We had the momentum and we carried it into the second half."
Burnt Hills regained the lead with 26:02 to play when LeBel scored on an assist from Kamppila.
Despite falling behind once again, Johnstown continued to push the action, generating several chances and holding a 3-2 advantage in penalty corners. The Lady Bills also had a golden opportunity when the Lady Spartans' Elise Zwicklbauer drew a yellow card, giving Johnstown a five-minute, one-player advantage with 14:18 remaining.
However, the Lady Bills were unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
"They [Burnt Hills] took us out of our game," Ringer said. "We couldn't transition the ball to the right side of the field like we wanted to."
Burnt Hills sealed the win with a strange goal when a shot by LeBel on a penalty corner was deflected high into the air by a Johnstown defender and knocked into the cage by Kamppila for a 3-1 lead.
"Today wasn't our day. Even when they scored their second goal, I wasn't too worried," Ringer said. "We had lots of chances on corners, but we just couldn't finish them off today."
The title was just the second Class B crown for Burnt Hills, which also claimed the crown in 2007. The Spartans also won the Class A title in 1985, 1987 and 1999.
Johnstown has won 14 sectional titles since 1983.
The Lady Bills defeated Burnt Hills twice last season, winning 2-1 in the regular season and 1-0 in the Class B semifinals, on its way to its first sectional title since 2003.
"Johnstown is a very good program. They have a legacy of success there," Vrooman said. "We would like to start one here."
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (12-7 overall) will face the Section I or IX champion in the regionals at Schuylerville High School on Nov. 12 or 13.
Johnstown finishes its season with a 17-2 overall record.
"I'm proud of my team," Ringer said. "This wasn't the way we wanted it to go, but I wouldn't trade my team for anything. I'm surely going to miss this group of seniors."
It was the final game for Johnstown seniors Dona, Pertell, Lindsay Brandt, Erin Glover, Emma Heroth, Jenna Hohenforst, Carissa O'Brien, Alexis Randolph and Alexis Swatt.