SYRACUSE — A couple of close games and a blowout defined the Frontier League’s performance in the Section 3 girls basketball semifinals Sunday at Onondaga Community College.
After fourth-seeded Lyme fell to No. 1 Brookfield, 53-49, in Class D, third-seeded Copenhagen took care of second-seeded Hamilton, 67-32, on the other side of the bracket.
Second-seeded South Jefferson avoided an early exit by defeating No. 3 Marcellus, 56-52, after Marcellus came back from a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the Class B semifinal late.
SOUTH JEFFERSON 56, MARCELLUS 52
From the start it looked like South Jefferson was in for a weird game.
The Spartans (21-2) weren’t expecting an easy victory. They also knew they didn’t play their best game.
“I think we just weren’t as mentally intense as they were, they had that above us,” said Jackie Piddock, who scored 24 points. “We needed to get stops, and we were kind of mentally affected by the fouls and all that stuff. We weren’t really focused on getting stops and getting scores.”
In the two most crucial moments of the game, the first five minutes and the last five minutes, Piddock came up huge for her team. When the Spartans were struggling to score early, Piddock nailed three 3-pointers to jump-start the offense.
At the end, she was automatic at the free throw line, hitting 8 of 9 in the fourth quarter to seal the game.
Not one particular offensive tactic worked well for the Spartans in the game. Piddock often had to work hard to find what was working and execute.
“I was trying to do whatever I could to obviously help our team get the win, whether it was shoot 3s or drive to the basket, or make the open play,” Piddock said. “Whatever is the best basketball play.”
The weird game capped off a weird week. The recent storm that dropped at least 3 feet of snow on the north country limited the Spartans’ ability to practice, like it did to every Jefferson and Lewis county school.
Only having limited time on Saturday disrupted South Jefferson’s rhythm.
But credit also goes to Marcellus. The Mustangs played sound ball inside and out and were particularly effective on the boards despite not being especially big.
“They box out, they do fundamental basketball, something I’ve been trying to get us to do for a long time,” Spartans coach Michelle Whitley said. “We have our moments where we would rather out jump somebody and it bites us in the long run.”
Sam Wynne finished with a team-high 12 points for the Mustangs.
Unlike Marcellus (19-4), the Spartans struggled to finish inside. Megan Whitley thought a lot of that was mental.
“We started to over think things. I think when we start to think about what we have to do instead of just doing of what know to do,” Megan Whitley said. “Fouls weren’t going our way but they weren’t having a great fouling game either, so it was back and forth. I think we just had to get back into our head space and that South Jeff mentality of go in and go hard.”
The Spartans return to the final where they will play No. 13 Bishop Grimes on Saturday at OCC at 7 p.m.
COPENHAGEN 67, HAMILTON 32
For the second consecutive game, Copenhagen took it to its opponent, making the final result not particularly close.
The Golden Knights’ semifinal versus Hamilton (20-2) lasted all of 68 minutes. Yet, Copenhagen managed to get four players in double digits.
Copenhagen coach Natalie Scott’s approach has remained the same — cycle through the lineup to keep the players fresh and the opponent on their toes.
One girl that played nearly throughout was Charli Carroll, the sophomore big who often towers over everyone.
While Carroll’s defense continued to be effective, her offense reached a different level. She finished with a team-high 16 points and even went coast-to-coast to score a basket.
“We’ve been promoting confidence and taking it to her, I got on her at three points during the game and at halftime and said, ‘You have to go, you are our strength,’” Scott said. “Honestly, we were going to try to get it in from the get-go because I didn’t know how our shots were going to fall, not practicing and things. We were going inside any ways, and challenging them in there and she just started off very confident.”
Carroll, one of the quieter girls on the roster, occasionally needs that push from Scott to get her going.
“This is the time to get a lot more aggressive for the harder teams that we’re going to face,” Carroll said.
While Carroll controlled the paint, Copenhagen’s guards took care of the rest.
Allison Best said that the Golden Knights’ plethora of ball-handlers makes it incredibly difficult for an opponent to figure out who to stop.
“It throws them all off, Morgan (Smith) and I can both play post, and we can also handle the ball (that) some teams get really shaken up by because how do you defend that?” Best said. “We can shoot, ball-fake and drive in, we can post move, it’s a combination of things.”
Copenhagen (20-2) will advance to the final where it will play No. 1 Brookfield at OCC on Saturday at 3 p.m.
BROOKFIELD 53, LYME 49
Lyme was in position to upset top-seeded Brookfield in the semifinal. The two had traded leads throughout, but with four minutes left, Lyme took a 42-38 edge over a gassed-Brookfield.
The fouling out of Molly Timmerman, Malena Stevenson, Callie LaFontaine and Francesca Wilson deeply hurt the Indians (17-5) though by allowing Brookfield to primarily focus its defense on Olivia Ososkalo.
This limited the Indians to only three field goals in the fourth quarter.
“They were leaning toward Frankie and Olivia to do the bulk of our scoring and when Frankie fouled out that just left them to key on Olivia,” Lyme coach Mark Wilson said. “And that kind of changed the complexity of our offense and how they were able to play defense on us.”
The Beavers (22-0) outscored Lyme 19-14 in the fourth quarter when Jaelyn Vleer-Elliott scored 10 of her 21 points. Madilyne Kupris also scored eight points in the final quarter.
Despite being heavily guarded, Ososkalo scored seven points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer in the final five seconds.
The junior knew the stakes going in and put on one of her best performances of the season.
“The beginning of the game I just knew that it was all or nothing and right now my knee is injured, but I knew I had to keep going and going,” Ososkalo said. “I kept looking up at the clock and those final minutes ticking down, we were up but we just had to keep working hard. A few turnovers here or there, a few mistakes and it just fell out of our hands.”
Ososkalo finished with a team-high 21 points, with seven in the fourth quarter.
“I was very happy with how Olivia played, it looked like she put the team on her back,” Wilson said. “When Frankie fouled out, she took it upon herself and she tried to will our team to win. She wasn’t ready to give up and gave it everything she had out there.”
Wilson and Riley Aubertine, the lone seniors on the roster, finished with 13 and five points, respectively.