SYRACUSE — Bella Davis and her Indian River girls basketball teammates continue to play at a high level well beyond their years.
Davis and the Warriors faced and met their latest challenge in style on Friday night in the Section 3 playoffs.
Davis scored 20 points to pace a balanced effort as top-seeded Indian River outlasted fourth-seeded Jamesville-DeWitt to record a 59-42 triumph in a Class A semifinal played at Onondaga Community College’s Allyn Hall.
“This is very nice, it’s a big one,” Davis said of the win. “It definitely is nice, I think when we’re challenged, we play better.”
With the victory, the Warriors improve to 20-2 on the season and advance to the program’s first Section 3 final in five years.
“This was a great win,” Indian River coach Jim Whitley said. “It’s been five years since we were in a sectional final, it was five years ago tonight that we beat Whitesboro to go to the Dome. For some teams I think five years wouldn’t seem to be that long, but for us, that’s way too long.”
Michaela Delles contributed 14 points for Indian River against Jamesville-DeWitt and Allison LaMora chipped in with 12 points.
“I think offensively, just moving the ball around and not forcing it – and trying to hit the middle,” said Davis, who also recorded nine assists to go along with 10 rebounds. “And then me going in the middle and then looking for options outside and looking for Alli (LaMora), too.”
All five players in the Warriors’ versatile starting lineup are underclassmen.
“This group is about a year ahead of where I thought they would be,” Whitley said. “We had three girls that we lost, all starters, all three are playing in college, one is playing Division I – Adrien (LaMora) is playing at Canisius and is playing a lot. We filled their spots with two sophomores and a junior and we don’t have a senior that starts.”
“This is exciting,” LaMora said. “All our starters are so good, they can do anything with the ball, anybody can do what we need to do, so it’s all good.”
Indian River also displayed both balance and versatility with its overall defensive effort against the Red Rams.
“It’s great, these kids take a lot of pride in their defense,” Whitley said. “Coach (Fred) LaVancha does a nice job with them. You could see, there was energy out there, there really is.”
Indian River, which entered the week ranked No. 7 in the state in Class A, moves on to face second-seeded Central Square in a Section 3 title game at 5 p.m. next Saturday, also at OCC.
“It was really good, we played really well,” LaMora said. “We were kind of nervous coming into it, but we played good.”
The last time the Warriors competed in a sectional final was back in the 2017-18 season as after they defeated Whitesboro in a semifinal, they were beaten by Jamesville-DeWitt at the Carrier Dome.
On Friday, the Warriors built a 30-19 lead through the first half, but the Red Rams generated a 9-0 run to pull within four points at 32-28.
But Davis followed with a 3-pointer just five seconds later to spark Indian River to a 9-1 surge for a 41-29 lead – capped by a basket from Keera LaLonde.
After the Red Rams pulled to within 43-33 entering the fourth quarter, Michaela Delles drained a clutch 3-pointer to open the final period and the Warriors would go on to lead by as many as 14 points the rest of the way to put the game away.
Davis scored 13 of her points in the first half, including totaling nine points in the opening quarter during which the Warriors built a 19-11 lead.
“Offensively, Bella was just a monster tonight,” Whitley said of Davis, who was a also a perfect six of six at the free-throw line. “She got the ball to the high post, we knew the high post was going to be wide open against their zone, And Bella just attacked it and got it to Alli a lot of times, she had nine assists. So she got it to the right people and we made shots, and that’s what you got to do in these games.”
Late in the second quarter, J-D pulled to within seven points, But Indian River answered with two quick baskets — one from LaMora, and after Ravan Marsell stole the ball, she fed Michaela Delles for a lay-up to build a 30-19 advantage with 2:20 left, a lead they would carry into halftime.
“It’s very cool, we have so many girls that can contribute and help out,” Davis said.
In all, Indian River made 12 of 16 free throw attempts from the free-throw line, including four from Marsell.
Aniyah Neal scored 13 points to pace Jamesville-DeWitt and Macy Durkin finished with 11 points.
“They played tough, had really good defense against us, but we worked through it,” LaMora said.
Indian River, which won both the Frontier League’s “A” Division regular-season and playoff titles, has won 15 of its past 16 games.
The Warriors reached Friday’s semifinal with a 60-24 home quarterfinal win against Watertown on Tuesday.
“We played three games in three weeks and I was really worried about that,” Whitley said. “We had a scrimmage with Hammond which helped us out, but I was worried about rust. But defensively we played great and we scored 59 points against a pretty good team.”
The last time Indian River claimed a Section 3 championship was in the 2007-08 season.
“It is pretty cool, it’s very exciting,” Davis said. “We all worked together when we were little playing basketball, so we were ready for it.”
“It’s awesome, it’s all we’ve ever dreamed about is getting to a sectional final,” LaMora said. “Hopefully we can go further, that’s our hope.”
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