JOHNSTOWN - Fort Plain held a lead throughout the middle quarters, but 22 second-half turnovers allowed the Middleburgh Lady Knights to crawl back before surging past the Lady Hilltoppers to win the WAC Cup title game 51-45 Tuesday at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
Abby Boyer scored 17 first half points for Fort Plain (13-5 overall, 11-3 WAC), but the senior was neutralized in the second half as Middleburgh switched to a triangle-and-two defense. Middleburgh's defense, a combination of man-to-man and zone, kept the ball out of Boyer's hands and gave the Lady Knights ample time to storm back.
"The big thing is we needed other players to step up and make plays and they're very, very young," said Fort Plain head coach Phil Karker.
Fort Plain’s Haley Kilmartin (24) looks to dribble past Middleburgh’s Lyndsay McCoy during Tuesday’s WAC Cup game at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)
Fort Plain's roster features a freshman with only modified basketball experience and a sophomore who didn't play as a freshman on the varsity squad. When leading scorers Boyer and Haley Kilmartin are locked up, Fort Plain's youth makes them susceptible to suspect play at both ends of the court.
Middleburgh got off to a rousing start. Carley Ryan and Taylor Cater each knocked down three-pointers as part of a 12-2 Lady Knights run to kick off the first quarter. Ryan, who led Middleburgh with 22 points in their WAC Cup semifinals matchup versus Canajoharie, scored eight in the first quarter en route to a team-high 16.
Boyer found a rhythm for Fort Plain late in the first quarter. She scored seven of Fort Plain's last nine points, including a buzzer-beating layup following a full-court heave.
Down 17-13, Fort Plain embarked upon a 12-0 run to open the second frame and grabbed an 8-point advantage. Boyer and Kilmartin each scored four during the run. The Lady Knights were stagnant offensively in the quarter and didn't tally their first point until 6:29 had ticked off the clock. Fort Plain took a 29-21 lead into the halftime break after outscoring Middleburgh 16-4 in the quarter.
After switching their defensive mindset to begin the second half, Middleburgh was able to take the ball out of Fort Plain's hands with frequency. Boyer scored the first four points of the quarter for Fort Plain, but the Lady Hilltoppers logged just six points in the quarter overall. Boyer didn't score again for the remainder of the game.
"She did a great job and she's a hard worker," Karker said of Boyer through misty eyes. "She's just unbelievable. I thought she should have been to the line a lot more than she was tonight and I think she got fouled a lot more than they were calling. She's just a very solid all-around ballplayer."
After turning the ball over 11 times in the third quarter and only being outscored by three points, Fort Plain gifted Middleburgh 11 more possessions in the fourth quarter. This time, the Lady Knights took full advantage.
Ryan hit her third 3-pointer of the game to pull Middleburgh within three early on, and Kiera Morgan splashed from downtown to pull her team even at 40. Following a layup by Kilmartin that gave Fort Plain a two-point lead, Cater scored four straight to give Middleburgh their first lead since 17-15. Morgan made another clutch 3-point bucket to put the Lady Knights up 47-43 before a series of unfortunate events took the ball out of Fort Plain's hands down the stretch.
A tie-up gave the ball to Middleburgh by way of the possession arrow with 14 seconds remaining and a desperation full-court heave sailed over Boyer's head and out of bounds on Fort Plain's next possession. Cater and Ryan each hit their ensuing free throws to put the game away.
"They're very athletic, very long, and their speed gave us problems. Teams with speed have given us problems all year. We're slow," Karker said with a wry smile. "You've got to give credit to Middleburgh because they were prepared with a game plan."
The Lady Hilltoppers now await today's sectional tournament seeding. After the loss, Karker made his opinion on that matter known.
"I want you guys to put it in print right now that Lake George does not play as strong a schedule as we do and neither does Waterford," Karker said. "Waterford lost to Heatly by 10, Northville beat Heatly by 10, and we beat Northville by 18 the same week when we played my starters half the game, so I'm lobbying for the WAC."
Karker cited Canajoharie, Middleburgh and Galway as examples of WAC teams that he believes are superior to higher-profile clubs from other leagues.
"Given that, Hoosic Valley, Maple Hill and Greenwich are very good teams," said Karker. "The other teams, they're not as good as what we are in the WAC this year."
Middleburgh 51, Fort Plain 45
Middleburgh17 4 9 21 - 51
Fort Plain 13 16 6 10 - 45
Ryan 5-3-16, Cater 4-5-15, Morgan 4-1-11, McCoy 2-0-5, Leruzic 1-0-2, Brown 0-1-1, Roney 0-1-1. Totals 16-11-51.
Boyer 10-1-21, Kilmartin 3-11-17, Florian 1-1-3, Bridgewater 1-0-2, Shirley 1-0-2. Totals 16-13-45.
3 point-goals: Middleburgh 8 (Ryan 3, Morgan 2, Cater 2, McCoy); Fort Plain - none.
Mekeel Christian 60, Saratoga Catholic 57
JOHNSTOWN - In the boys WAC Cup title game, Mekeel Christian Academy posted a 60-57 win over Saratoga Central Catholic at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
Mano Senthill scored 13 points to lead Mekeel Christian (17-1 overall), while Scott Volker finished with 10. Marquan Newman and C.J. Mulvey each scored eight points for the Lions.
Michael Naughton scored 18 points to lead Saratoga Catholic (15-3 overall), while Keegan Murphy and Ryan Czarnecki each scored 12 points.
Mekeel Christian 60, Saratoga Catholic 57
Mekeel Christian10 16 12 22 - 60
Saratoga Catholic7 13 13 24 - 57
Senthil 5-0-13, Volker 3-2-10, Newman 3-2-8, Mulvey 4-0-8, Mann 1-4-7, White 1-4-6, Gomez 1-2-4, Sexton 0-2-2, Mulvey 0-2-2. Totals 18-18-60.
Naughton 4-9-18, Murphy 6-0-12, Czarnecki 5-1-12, Hall 3-1-7, Spicer 2-1-6, Pescetti 1-0-2. Totals 21-12-57.
3 point-goals: Mekeel Christian 6 (Senthil 3, Volker 2, Mann); Saratoga Catholic 3 (Naughton, Czarnecki, Spicer).