Setting the Scene: It might be a different world than the last time Section 2 had playoffs in 2020, but sectional semifinal/final week hasn’t changed. Like past years, the B semifinals took center stage at Averill Park on Tuesday evening, and of the four teams that advanced to this point, three had been there in recent years. The top two seeds, Schalmont & Mechanicville, were semifinal opponents in 2020; Mechanicville, the 4 then, won that en route to a 2nd straight Class B title. Fonda-Fultonville, the 6, won on this floor as a 13 seed back in 2019. Ichabod Crane was the lone new face in neutral site season. They ended the evening against Schalmont, the top seed once again. Fonda/Mechanicville started it off in a rematch not only of a late December matchup, but the 2019 Class B final. It’s that time of year!
Fonda-Fultonville 46, Mechanicville 39
75 Words or Less: “Yesterday’s Braves are not today’s Braves”. Mechanicville won Round 1 47-24 in December, but things change in two months, and that showed quickly. A fast Fonda start led by their frontcourt put Mechanicville on its heels & forced them to play from behind. True to form, they battled back and effectively dictated style the last 3 quarters, even tying it in the 4th, but Fonda ended on a 9-2 run to escape with a W.
THE FULL STORY
62 days removed from the lopsided loss Fonda took to Mechanicville at Impact, they wasted no time in trying to flip the script. Marilyn Whitcavitch (Fonda-Fultonville 2022) opened the scoring not long after the opening tip, Kyla Smith (Fonda-Fultonville 2022) canned a three, and Whitcavitch scored again to quickly get the Lady Braves out to a 7-0 lead in the first 75 seconds. Two Kieonna Christmas (Fonda-Fultonville 2024) free throws & a split pair from Whitcavitch pushed it to 10-2, and another Whitcavitch bucket stretched the lead to double digits at 15-5 late in the 1st. The 2 seed only made two field goals in the opening frame, a Lila Christensen (Mechanicville 2024) bucket at the midway point and a Jillian Germain (Mechanicville 2022) three in the final minute, but they were at least able to get to the line and force Fonda into some foul trouble, as two starters picked up two fouls before the end of the 1st. The Germain three cut their deficit to 6 before a Christmas score made it 17-9 in favor of Fonda after one.
The 6 seed kept their distance in the 2nd quarter, but the style of play started to favor Mechanicville as they were better able to dictate pace & flow. Another Smith three brought the Lady Braves lead to its largest margin of 11, which it fluctuated back & forth to another two times in the quarter. The last one of those was after an Atty finish to make it 26-15, but that was it for Fonda as they went scoreless for 3+ minutes to end the half. Mechanicville got baskets from Chloe Goverski (Mechanicville 2022) and Hailie Phelps (Mechanicville 2022) to get within 7 at 26-19 at the break.
The style of play went entirely to Mechanicville’s liking in the 2nd half, and they started to break through on the scoreboard late in the 3rd. The margin fluctuated between 7-10 for much of the quarter and Fonda had it at 33-24 after another Christmas make at the 2:49 mark, but the Raiders made their biggest push from there. Two Christensen free throws and a left wing three from Ella Zecca (Mechanicville 2024) cut the deficit to 4. Zecca drilled another one from nearly the same spot 45 seconds later to trim it to 3, and a Germain free throw – drawing Whitcavitch’s 3rd foul in the process – cut it to 2 before a Smith end-to-end take & finish extended Fonda’s lead to 37-33 going into the 4th.
Mechanicville came all the way back to square it up early in the final frame, but the run halted there. Allie Kenyon (Mechanicville 2023) cut it back to 2, and two Goverski free throws with 5:53 left, which also accounted for Whitcavitch’s 4th foul, tied the game at 37. However, Fonda came back with a huge score/stop/score series to stop the bleeding, and the buckets came from the bigs again, with Whitcavitch and Christmas teaming up to regain the lead. Quincy Lake (Fonda-Fultonville 2023) had her only field goal of the game to make it 43-37 with 3:32 left. Phelps had the answer on Mechanicville’s next possession, but that make at the 3:11 mark was the Raiders’ last points of the night. After an extended dry spell for both teams, a Christmas catch & finish on a baseline out-of-bounds play with :37.3 left all but sealed the Fonda win, and they rode to the finish to advance to Class B sectional finals.
Kieonna Christmas was Fonda’s most consistent offensive presence and led the way with 14 points. Frontcourt running mate Marilyn Whitcavitch joined her in double digits with 11, and the backcourt of Kyla Smith (9) and Carly Atty (7) chipped in with 16 combined points. Mechanicville had balance in the books – no one in double figures, all six players that scored for them had between 5-8 points. Lila Christensen had a team high 8, and Hailie Phelps & Ella Zecca contributed 7 each.
Schalmont 50, Ichabod Crane 33
75 Words or Less: Nothing like the Round 3 grind. Ichabod Crane’s made top seed Schalmont grit games out as is, but add the level of familiarity & the game’s physicality, and smooth offense was hard to come by… unless you have Payton Graber’s stroke. She got hot in a hurry in the 2nd, canning 5 threes in the frame, and she finished with 8 in a 30 point night as Schalmont steadily pulled away to another victory.
THE FULL STORY
No one said it had to be smooth. Like many Colonial Council games this winter, this was a physical battle from the word “go”. It took nearly three minutes for the first make from the field to occur, as Abby Dolge (Ichabod Crane 2022) hit a floater at the 5:19 mark to give the Riders a 2-1 lead. She picked up her 2nd foul not long after though, and the resulting Payton Graber (Schalmont 2022) and-one sparked a quick 8-0 stretch for the Sabres to get them going. That included a Siena Hallberg (Schalmont 2022) three and Haley Burchhardt (Schalmont 2022) finish at the rim to give them a 9-2 edge. Dolge stopped the bleeding with another bucket, Hallberg hit another three, and Delaney More (Ichabod Crane 2023) got on the board before the end of the opening frame, resulting in a 12-6 Schalmont lead.
The 2nd quarter was only a +1 for Schalmont, but it was the quarter of Payton Graber regardless. More scored again to start the stanza & cut IC’s deficit to 4, and then Graber hit a three. Then it was Carolina Williams (Ichabod Crane 2025) getting on the board for the Riders, and Graber responded with a three. Two Williams free throws, drawing 2nd fouls on both Karissa Antoine (Schalmont 2024) and Graber in the process, and then Graber… there’s a theme here. Ichabod Crane points, whether they were at the rim, from beyond the arc, or at the free throw line, were all answered with Graber threes. She hit five of them in the quarter, accounting for all 15 of Schalmont’s points, as they went into the locker room up 27-20.
It felt like a game where the first four minutes of the 3rd would dictate the rest of the game, and if you selected “grit & grind”, you won. Graber started the 2nd half how she ended the 1st, with a flame coming from her right hand as she hit her 6th three in less than 7 minutes of play. Then she added another bucket, this time inside the arc, to stretch their lead to 12. Ichabod Crane’s offensive struggles were immense in the 3rd quarter, with a long two from Williams at the 1:21 mark giving them their first & only points of the frame, but the Sabres weren’t much better at that end. They could only muster those Payton makes and three Burchhardt free throws in the last minute to take a 35-22 lead into the 4th.
The 4 seed hung around for the first four minutes of the 4th before Schalmont put it away from the only place they had offensive potency in this game – 20 feet & beyond. Schalmont traded points with Malati Culver (Ichabod Crane 2023) early in the 4th, who had six in the first four minutes to keep them hanging around, but Graber kept ripping the nets, and Hallberg got back to it as well. Graber’s 7th & 8th threes of the game pushed it to 43-28 with 3:52 left, then on Schalmont’s next possession, it was Hallberg knocking one down off a Graber feed to serve as a dagger and give them their largest lead of 18. They repeated the act just over a minute later after Ashley Ames (Ichabod Crane 2023) rattled home a three, and it was all administrative from there as the clock ticked to zeroes on a Schalmont sectional final berth.
Payton Graber reeled off a game high 30 points, 24 of them coming from beyond the arc in a next-level shooting display. Siena Hallberg joined her in double digits with 12, all from deep. They combined to hit 12 threes on the night. Ichabod Crane had balance in the books, with no one finishing in double digits. Malati Culver had 8 (6 4th quarter) and Carolina Williams chipped in with 7 while attracting primary defensive attention.
Next Up: For Ichabod Crane & Mechanicville, it’s off to AAU for the underclassmen and Tuesday marked the last game of the seniors’ high school careers. For Schalmont & Fonda-Fultonville, it’s off to Hudson Valley Community College, where they’ll square off for the Section II Class B crown on Saturday at 12:45.
- I had my eye on Schalmont/Fonda as a potential March matchup before the season started. Check the season preview for receipts… and here we are. Schalmont has rolled through Class B competition this winter, and make no mistake, they’re the favorite Saturday too, but Fonda poses a matchup issue that no one else has been able to present. No one with Karissa’s athleticism, but Fonda’s size is different in 6’1″ Marilyn Whitcavitch and 6’0″ Kieonna Christmas, both very serviceable. No one that can shut Payton out of the equation – this is a more physically & mentally mature Payton we’re seeing this year – but Kyla Smith has the athleticism to battle, will more than likely draw that assignment, and is never afraid of the challenge of a high-level player. Depth is an issue for Fonda in this game, but they present a different look & intriguing matchup. Every other Class B team against Schalmont? The only question is how much Schalmont wins by. Fonda against Schalmont? Ehh… things could get interesting.
- Impressive victory for Fonda because they didn’t get it “their way”. Part of the 2nd quarter and the entire 2nd half was the style of game Mechanicville wants. They created the chaos they look for, scrapped every possession, made them uncomfortable, did a much better job preventing the bigs from catching it in advantageous spots, put them in a little foul trouble and forced Coach Boshart to go deeper into his bench for longer periods of time than he’d like in a competitive sectional semifinal. The comeback happened. Mechanicville tied it up, and when they did, it was also Marilyn Whitcavitch’s 4th foul (with 5:53 left). Carly Atty was injured at that point and either out or limping. And they figured it out. Stop after stop after stop. One Mechanicville make the rest of the way. Kieonna Christmas, who was their most consistent presence on the offensive end, got the ball in advantageous spots a couple times – facing up at the short corner against Mechanicville zone, then facing the basket on a BLOB. Bucket, bucket. The second one pretty much iced it in the final minute. It didn’t come easy, but they usually don’t this time of year.
- One other thought from Fonda/Mechanicville: the 4th quarter matchup of Carly Atty & Chloe Goverski was interesting. Not even so much the players themselves, but it was clear that both of them were far less than 100% and basically gutting it out through injuries. The side of me that likes to make a joke out of everything was reminded that they kinda looked like me moving after any physical activity, but in reality, lot of heart shown as they tried to finish the job for their teams that they’ve been staples of for a handful of years.
- Ichabod Crane/Schalmont was not pretty. It is what it is. I expected that to be the case coming in. A grind in the regular season that Schalmont won by 20ish, Round 3 so plenty of familiarity and all the film you could ask for. Players just have to make plays. Payton Graber did that, and Siena Hallberg provided a big lift on a day that wasn’t Haley’s day on the offensive end and Karissa spent half the game on the bench with foul issues. Payton did what you’d hope someone at Payton’s level would do, take control when the team needed it. A few of those threes were (inexplicably) open, but a few were with a hand in range that she lined up off the catch & drilled. Siena Hallberg hit two early & two late for Schalmont. The 1st quarter threes, one off a ball screen & another off a Haley skip, were big because of how much they struggled out of the gate at that end. The two in the 4th, both off Payton feeds, were daggers. 50 points as a team, 42 from those two, 36 of them from beyond the arc (Payton 8 threes, Siena 4). Get it how you can when it’s survive and advance season.
- Write it down now. As long as unforeseen circumstances don’t arise, Ichabod Crane will be a force next year. A rising star in Carolina Williams, effective guard play alongside her in Ashley Ames, a physical frontcourt presence with some versatility in Delaney More, serviceable complimentary pieces in Alexa Barkley & Malati Culver. My “way too early” look at 2022-23 in Section 2 Class B has them among the leaders.
- Sectional season is a gift & a curse. Trust me, the benefits of the gift far outweigh the curse, but the curse is still annoying. These games bring out the community at large. Seas of every color of the rainbow can be seen during neutral site season. It’s great to see students, families, and community members come out to support these girls. It also brings out some imbeciles that can’t stop themselves from yelling out some of the dumbest & most ridiculous things at an amateur sporting event. It’s a small price to pay, but if you see me with the headphones on at any point, you know why.
- I said this on Twitter already, but here it is again. You know the games matter when Brian Cady’s on the mic! Good to see Brian in the building. I will again Wednesday (Class A semis), Thursday (AA semis), Saturday (Section 2 finals), and a couple weeks from now at the states.