RCS girls fall to Afton in Sectionals nail-biter
By John Bernhardt
Experience counts in Section IV postseason play. That’s the final basketball lesson of the 2014 season for a young, emerging Roxbury girls’ basketball team. The Rockets showed their inexperience while dropping a nail biting, 28-25, Class D opening round decision to Afton last week.
Nerves and tension dominated early play on both sides of the court with both teams moving at a wild, almost madcap pace, too fast to safely handle the ball. Roxbury center Stacey Sprague established herself as an inside scoring threat in the first quarter, but the Rockets struggled to get her the ball throughout the contest.
Sprague drove the lane and was fouled, hitting both shots, to give Roxbury an early 2-0 lead. Afton senior Payton Cutting rolled down the middle of the lane and was fouled returning the favor with two shots for Afton to tie the score. Afton went ahead, 4-2, when Sierra Palmatier found Cutting cutting to the hoop to break the Roxbury press.
One of two Sprague fouls shots and a Shannon Sprague 15-footer on an out of bounds play put Roxbury ahead, 5-4.
The teams traded scores with a Palmatier layup giving Afton back the lead. A Stacey Sprague pass across the three-second lane found Hailey Mosley alone at the opposite block for an inside score and the Rockets lead again 7-6.
Tanya Hatton put back a missed shot for an 8-7 Crimson Knight lead. One of two Stacey Sprague foul shots ended the first frame with the teams deadlocked at 8-8.
Both teams struggled to secure the ball during the second period with only two points scored on each end of the court. Lizzie Davis hit Devin Fox with a lead pass at the end of a fast break. Fox was fouled and hit both charity shots making it 10-8 Roxbury.
Afton’s Bailey Sherman nailed a 13 footer just in front of the foul line to knot things up, 10-10 at the half.
The game slowed to a more manageable pace in the second half.
Shannon Sprague pulled down a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast to put Roxbury back on top at the start of the third quarter. Cutting did the same a minute later for Afton to tie the game, 12-12.
Ashley Rogalski’s foul shot inched the Crimson Knights ahead, but a nifty spin move by Stacey Sprague put Roxbury back in front, 14-13. Sprague’s offensive rebound gave the Rockets their biggest lead of the night at 16-13, but Alex Alford’s foul shot shaved one point off that margin for Afton before the quarter break.
For the most part it was senior leadership that made the difference for Afton in the final quarter. Rogalski, a senior, turned a steal into a full court lay-up to tie the score at 16-16 early in the quarter.
Seconds later, Devon Fox hit one-of-two foul shots to give Roxbury their last lead, 17-16. Another Afton senior, Sierra Palmatier’s rebound score put the Crimson Knights back in front. Rogalski hit one of two foul shots, then Palmatier stole a pass and drove attempting a score, her missed shot put back by Shakari Coss gave Afton a 21-17 lead.
Stacey Sprague drove and was fouled, hitting both shots to draw Roxbury closer, but a Tanya Hatton foul shot, and a Rogalski 15 footer when she stepped in bounds after an out-of-bounds pass had the Crimson Knights back in the lead, 24-20.
Roxbury’s Jade Meehan and Rogalski traded foul shots before Roxbury made a final push. Stacey Sprague pulled down an offensive board and kicked a pass finding Devon Fox. Fox drove the lane and scored, and with 49.3 seconds left the Rockets trailed, 25-23.
Roxbury point guard Shannon Sprague’s heads up defensive play forced back-to-back jump balls in the back court, the second tie-up giving the Rockets back the ball with 45.3 seconds to play.
Sprague then drove from the baseline into the lane and with 39.3 seconds to play, Roxbury had erased Afton’s advantage the score knotted, 25-25.
Both teams turned the ball over, Roxbury making a steal but losing the handle with a quick inside pass attempt giving Afton back the ball. The Knights tried to turn the turnover into a lay-up but a speedy Roxbury defensive recovery turned Afton away from the basket, the ball pried loose and rolling toward the sideline. An Afton player got to the ball first and after two quick passes Bailey Sherman got off a shot just over a closing Rocket defender. The three-point attempt swished through the nets, a game-winning shot, giving the Crimson Knights a 28-25 victory.
Two sophomores led the Roxbury attack with Stacey Sprague scoring a game-high 10 points. Devon Fox netted six.
Seniors Ashley Rogaski and Payton Cutting led Afton with eight and seven points apiece.
Roxbury finished their season at 12-6 on the year.
Delaware League Notes:
- Section IV. Class D opening round action proved devastating for Delaware League schools. Seven schools qualified to take part in this year’s post-season tournament. Only South Kortright survived the opening round with a blowout win over visiting Downsville.