SYRACUSE — The remarkable two-year run for the General Brown High School girls basketball team came to an end Sunday afternoon with a nail-biting loss in the Section 3 Class B semifinals.
The top-seeded Lions suffered an ill-fated turnover with 12 seconds left and the No. 4 Westhill Warriors made three free throws from there to hold on for the 50-46 victory at Onondaga Community College’s Allyn Hall Gym.
Senior Kori Nichols scored 13 points and classmate Ainsley Fuller added nine for General Brown (20-3 overall), which finished one game shy of the chance to defend its first overall sectional title after reaching the state semifinals last season.
Janiah Robinson scored 16 points to lead three players in double figures for perennial power Westhill (19-4), which won for the 16th time in 17 games and advanced to face No. 3 Cortland (19-4) for the Class B title at 3 p.m. Saturday at the same location.
The game was just the fourth all season decided by single digits for the Lions, who entered on an 11-game winning streak and finished with an average scoring margin of plus-32.3 for the season.
“When it came down the line, we made some turnovers at the end that were more the inexperience of playing an up-tempo game, and it cost us a little bit,” said General Brown coach Janelle Ferris, who has guided the team to a combined 46-6 record the past two years.
“But I’m super proud of the girls, they had a great season, we had six seniors that put a lot of time into the program, and it shows, we have a successful program. They’re leaving on a down note because it was an unfortunate game, but they should be proud of themselves.”
Westhill fended off General Brown in the fourth quarter containing four lead changes and one tie.
The Lions trailed, 47-46, before losing possession on an errant pass into the post with 12.5 seconds left. Robinson came away with the loose ball for Westhill and fell to the ground as she was fouled, which was ruled intentional.
Robinson made one of the ensuing free throw attempts and Westhill maintained possession, making a successful inbound pass to Lizzy McPeak, who knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the advantage to 50-46 with 10.9 seconds left. The Lions were unable to answer before the buzzer sounded.
General Brown tallied five of its 15 steals in the fourth quarter as it dialed up the half-court pressure defense with traps and doubles teams. Nichols deflected a pass that was scooped up by Fuller with 25 seconds left to set up the potential go-ahead possession for the Lions.
“I think that we fought the whole game, unfortunately we just didn’t come out on top,” Nichols said.
General Brown eighth-grader Leah Ferris scored a pair of go-ahead buckets in the fourth quarter. She scored on a put-back with 3:20 left to push GB ahead, 42-41, for its first advantage since the second quarter. She then finished inside to give the Lions a 44-43 edge with 2:34 remaining.
The Lions opened the game with a 9-1 run and had the Warriors scrambling to solve their full-court press at the start. Senior Lily Dupee scored the first five points to spark the early surge, and tallied a team-high four steals overall.
Dupee, Leah Ferris, sophomore Madelyn Ferris and senior Ashlee Ward contributed six points apiece for General Brown.
“This was a great season, obviously it’s hard coming off this loss after last year making it to the state final four, but I’m proud of this team,” Nichols said.
General Brown produced its second straight 20-win season and reached back-to-back sectional semifinals after a 13-year drought since its prior appearance. The team is 16-2 against Class B foes the last two seasons.
General Brown will lose four starters and six seniors overall, including Nichols, the leading scorer who topped 1,000 points for her career on Jan. 20.
The Lions won their first overall sectional title last year and captured the Class C-1 crown in 2002.
“I think it was a carry-over from last season, there were a lot of expectations, obviously when you do it once, the expectation is to get back,” Janelle Ferris said. “All we can do is hope that our success continues the way it has the last couple years.”
Westhill advanced to the final in the first season under new head coach, Zach Kiggins, who replaced Sue Ludwig after 31 seasons. Ludwig, who left to become an assistant coach at Syracuse University, led the Warriors to 11 sectional titles and compiled a 585-116 career record.
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