SK teams bring home sectional hoop crowns

By John Bernhardt
The landscape of Section IV was painted a deep shade of South Kortright Blue Saturday in Binghamton. With one side of The Arena packed with loyal basketball enthusiasts from South Kortright, both the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams captured Class D, Section IV championship titles. The Rams will take their twin championship show to the New York State Tournament in back-to-back regional championship contests Saturday at SUNY Cortland.

Girls’ Championship - South Kortright 60, Schenevus 51
It was a classic case of the inside game versus the outside game in Saturday’s championship opener. Schenevus, playing in their first ever Section IV championship game, hoped a healthy dose of outside shooting and pressure defense could help them take home the crown. On the opposite side of the floor, South Kortright countered with a main menu that pounded the ball close to the basket and added a dessert of offensive rebounding.
A towering trio of inside forwards, Cassie McMullen, Mary Grant, Renee Craft and Nikki Holdridge dominated the paint for the entire 32 minutes. The big SK front line was inside magic, but it was more than height that counted. The Rams demonstrated a concerted game plan that banked on strong inside play and a steel-minded will to execute it.
The SK scoring pattern was established early when, three minutes into the contest, McMullen put back a missed Rams’ shot for the game’s first score. Schenevus answered in kind to tie things up with Cassandra Brown putting back a missed shot for a Dragons’ score. Brown turned a steal into a lay-up seconds later to give Schenevus the lead.
A six-point McMullen scoring burst put the Rams back in front. Renee Craft turned a steal into an assist hitting McMullen for a lay-up. The Rams’ center then cleaned the offensive boards turning two rebounds into scores, giving SK an 8-4 advantage.
Marion Murphy and Jayme Bentley teamed to stop the SK run when Murphy drove the lane and kicked the ball back to Bently, who downed a jumper on the left wing. But, a third straight McMullen put back started SK on another six-point tear extending their margin to 14-6. Mary Grant picked up a loose ball and nailed an inside banker and Craft downed a one-dribble shot along the baseline to end the first period with the Rams ahead by eight.
The early moments in the second quarter belonged to Schenevus, the Dragons setting the table for one of the most entertaining quarters of basketball of the year. Jessica Bentley got things going by knocking down a long three-point goal. After Craft converted a 10-foot shot off penetration for SK, the Dragons ran off eight straight with another Bentley three-pointer closing the scoring spree and giving Schenevus a 17-16 lead.
Bentley’s second three, giving the Dragons the lead, was the first of eight consecutive baskets that resulted in lead changes. Mary Grant nudged the Rams back in front with an inside bank shot. An outside banker by Kelly Tiderencel volleyed the lead back to the Dragons. Craft went to work from the inside for SK with a banking score, Jessica Bentley finished a lay-up off an out-of-bounds play for Schenevus, Grant banked a second shot home for SK, and Murphy picked off a pass and went coast-to-coast for a Dragon lay-up putting Schenevus back in front, 23-22.
Few were surprised that it was McMullen who would give SK back the lead by using a hard drive down the left lane for a score. It was a lead South Kortright would never relinquish. Grant put back another missed shot and McMullen swished an eight-footer from the middle of the lane to give the Rams a 28-23 lead at intermission.
The seesaw pattern continued into the third quarter. Once again, Bentley was the catalyst for the Dragons, burying a 12-footer at the start of the frame. Tera Keaney hit one of two foul shots to narrow the SK, margin to two, 28-26. McMullen then used in an inside banker off a drive for the Rams, but Bentley answered with another three-pointer narrowing the SK lead to 30-29.
The game swung firmly SK’s way toward the middle of the period. The Rams went on another run, this time scoring seven straight points to build an eight-point margin, 37-29. Mary Grant hit an inside banker, then SK swished five foul shots, three by McMullen and a pair by Craft, to pull away.
The SK advantage would hold throughout the rest of the contest. Schenevus battled hard but could only come within six points of the Delaware League champions at 37-31 and 51-45. The final horn sounded with South Kortright ahead, 60-51, and crowned the new Section IV, Class D, girl’s basketball champions.

Boys Championship – South Kortright 50, Laurens 45
South Kortright boys’ basketball is defined by tough defense and unselfish team play. All that and more was on display as the Rams battled Laurens at The Arena in Section IV basketball championship action on Saturday. Yet, it was the play of SK’s sixth man, Rashawn Herrington, who came off the bench, electrified the crowd and propelled the Rams to the Section IV, Class D crown.
On his own, Herrington did everything you could expect to see of a composite basketball team. The junior forward, drove the baseline behind the Laurens’ zone, threaded passes inside to cutting teammates, intimidated the Leopards from the top of South Kortright’s extended 1-2-2 zone forcing numerous turnovers, nailed a modern and old fashioned version of the three-point play, posted in at the blocks to score from the inside, manned the point during the later stages of the game, and jammed home a thundering dunk as the Rams pulled way in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 8-1 midway through the first quarter, SK coach Bob VanValkenburgh inserted his junior forward. SK’s fortunes changed immediately, although it took Herrington a few minutes to get cooking. Josh Palmatier drove down the right side of the lane for SK’s first field goal. After Aaron Laing’s two foul shots pushed the Laurens lead back to seven, SK’s Charlie Darling ran the baseline and hit a 12-foot jumper. Jordan Diletto stole the ball, took a single dribble and fired a long pass to Ryan Carr cutting for a Lauren’s lay-up. SK answered when Eric Burns took a long rebound and converted a high banker over outstretched Laurens arms.
Although they didn’t know it at the time, the final points of the opening quarter signaled big troubles for Laurens. Herrington drove the baseline and was fouled. The speedy forward hit two charity shots, the first of a six-of-seven performance at the line, to draw the Rams within three, 12-9, at the quarter break.
A Herrington explosion at the start of the second quarter swung the game in SK’s direction. The talented junior put back a missed shot to get warmed up. A long Herrington three-point bomb from the left wing gave the Rams the lead, 14-12, an advantage they would never turn back to the Leopards. Two more Herrington foul shots pushed the Rams’ lead to four.
Dilello ran down a long rebound and flew coast-to-coast to convert a lay-up narrowing the SK margin to 16-14. But, eight-straight SK points would clip the Leopards’ claws. Dan Many finished a lay-up at the front end of a fast break to get things rolling. A steal and slicing lay-up by Herrington stretched the lead to six. Darling completed an impressive pump-fake series, patiently crouching below two leaping Leopards before jumping high to score. It was Herrington with another steal and lay-up to finish the run with SK on top, 24-14.
Dilello battled hard for Laurens by nailing a pretty baseline runner to stop the SK explosion. Herrington turned to the passing game, threading a pass through Laurens’ zone, finding Kyle Hotaling who knocked down a near impossible fall-away jumper. On SK’s next possession, Herrington faked a shot, got the defender off his feet, and fired a bullet finding Darling cutting through the lane for a score and a 12-point Rams’ advantage. Dilello and Matt Struckle competed a flashy passing series with Dilello finding Struckle and the senior volleying a pass back to Struckle for a score. But, Hotaling nailed a fall away, a teardrop, that arched just over the Laurens defense, to end the half with the Rams in front, 30-18.
A Hotaling jumper at the start of the third quarter gave SK their biggest lead of the game at 14 points. Laurens fought hard trying to work their way back into the game, but could only get back two points during the quarter. An old fashioned driving three-point field goal/ foul shot conversion by Herrington, a fall way jumper by Hotaling and another Metzko foul shot kept the Rams out front, 38-26.
Laurens, with the two tallest men on the floor, finally took their game inside at the start of the fourth quarter. Jordan Davis hit an inside banker and Dilello nailed a foul shot and drive to narrow SK’s lead to 38-31. Herrington interrupted the Leopard surge by posting in at the block and nailing an inside banker. A long three-point goal by Carr pulled Laurens within six, 40-34.
Once again, it was Hotaling and Herrington who answered. Hotaling put back a missed shot to stretch the lead to eight, and Herrington added an exclamation point, delighting the crowd with a steal and thundering overhead, tomahawk, left-handed dunk.
The Leopards were not intimidated. Laing buried a foul-line jumper, and after an Eric Burns foul shot, Carr drove underneath the hoop and converted a twisting, running hook shot. The Arena erupted moments later when on an out-of-bounds play, Laing got open cutting low, banked home a lay-up and was fouled. After the tall center swished the foul shot, the Leopards were within four at 45-41.
Herrington and Laing traded foul shots on opposite ends to the court, before Dan Many calmly popped in two foul shots with 25.4 seconds left to play to push SK’s lead to 48-42. Laurens made a last gasp effort when Matt Campbell came off the bench and drained a long three-pointer making it 48-45 with 19 seconds left. But, two Eric Burns foul shots sealed the deal for SK giving the Rams a date with destiny Saturday in Cortland.
Herrington finished with 21 points for SK. Ryan Carr led the Leopards with 12.