Nearly two weeks after topping the Wolves to win its first IAC Small School championship in four decades, Newfield and Union Springs found themselves sharing the hardwood with one another once again on March 4 with a chance to play for the Section IV Class C title. This time around, though, it was the Wolves who got the best of the Trojans, winning the semifinal matchup 52–46 this past Wednesday at SUNY Cortland.
Newfield head coach Brandon Steinorth said the effort by his team was present throughout the game, but it was ultimately missed opportunities on the offensive end that led to the team’s defeat.
“I thought we worked hard tonight. Sometimes you just get beat,” Steinorth said. “Shots that have gone in other nights rolled around the basket and popped out. And credit to them. Union Springs played really, really well. When you’re going through scenarios of how it could go wrong, one is if we shoot poorly and finish poorly, and they shoot well, sometimes it’s just that easy.”
Just like the conference championship game, the Wolves leaped out to an early lead at 8–1 through the first two and a half minutes or so. However, Newfield picked up the offensive pace soon enough, outscoring its opponent 12–2 through the rest of the quarter. After Kelly Moravec pulled the Trojans within a point with a three-pointer, Maura Wood-Ellis converted a layup with less than two minutes left to give the squad its first lead of the game at 11–10. Kelly, who scored 11 of the team’s 13 points in the quarter, would knock down a pair of free throw attempts with under a minute to go to put Newfield up by three heading into the second quarter.
Layups from Renee Park and Grace Perkins regained the lead for Union Springs at 14–13 to begin the quarter. Katie Moravec tilted the score back in Newfield’s favor with a mid-range jumper and a layup, forcing the Wolves to call a timeout down 17–14 with about two minutes shaved off the clock.
Both squads swapped buckets following the timeout as the Trojans led by just one at 19–18. Katie bumped that lead up to four with a trey, though, and Jenna Goodwin made it a five-point lead after going one-for-two at the charity stripe. Katie scored nine of Newfield’s 10 points in the quarter.
However, the Wolves would claw back and make it a one-possession game again thanks to layups from Payton Gilbert and Park. At halftime, Newfield held a 23-22 advantage over Union Springs.
The Wolves clamped down on defense to start the second half, only allowing the Trojans to convert one field goal in the third quarter.
Steinorth said the Wolves excelled at clogging up traffic down low during the quarter.
“We like to get to the rim, and that’s no mystery to anybody,” he said. “I thought in the third quarter Union Springs really buckled down and made it hard for us. Look, when you throw a brick wall into the paint, then you need to start hitting shots. Again, we took good shots tonight ... but they just didn’t fall for us.”
Union Springs retook the lead thanks to its stifling defensive effort, though the Wolves only led 37–32 at the end of the quarter as the Trojans were able to keep themselves within striking distance thanks to some clutch free throw shooting.
“Truthfully, when I watched the video of the IAC game, they took a lot of good shots that night that just rimmed out,” Steinorth said. “Tonight, they went in.”
Newfield kept the deficit at five points through the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. However, Danielle Waldron scored on back-to-back possessions – first on a layup while drawing a foul (she missed the free throw attempt), and then on a mid-range jump shot, which brought Union Spring’s lead to nine points.
With the lead still at nine points at 47–38 past the halfway point of the quarter, Goodwin swiped a pass on defense and drove down court where she was fouled on her way up to making a layup. Goodwin was unable to complete the three-point play as Newfield trailed by seven. Wood-Ellis went to the line about 30 seconds later, where she converted one of two attempts to make it a six-point contest with under three minutes left.
After Waldron laid in a pass from Park to elevate the lead to 49–41, Katie was fouled and went to the line and made both free throw attempts to shrink the deficit back down to six with less than a minute to go.
Union Spring’s Kailey Kalet was fouled with about 30 seconds left and made one of two free throws to bring the score to 50–44. Katie bucketed a three on the Trojans’ next possession with about 17 seconds to go to make it a four-point game, but that was as close Newfield was able to come as Union Springs held on for the six-point victory.
Katie scored a game-high 18 points. She also tallied six rebounds and a blocked shot. Kelly scored 12 points, rebounded four shots and blocked two more. Goodwin scored eight points and secured a pair of rebounds. Wood-Ellis scored six points, assisted on two shots and brought down a game-high 14 rebounds. Tatiyana Smith dished out two assists and collected seven rebounds.
Union Springs moved on to play Unatego in the finals this past Saturday. Unatego won the championship by the score of 42–26.
Even though the team’s season has come to an end, Steinorth said his players should be proud of what they were able to achieve this season.
“There are two sides of it. Number one, this group of ladies accomplished something that no one in Newfield had accomplished in 40 years. They won a conference championship,” he said. “No one gets to take that away from them. ... On the flip side, the one bonus of all this is now you left something on the table to accomplish next [year]. You now left something that hasn’t been accomplished in 41 years – sectional title – and you have reason to lick your wounds and to get out there and work hard to see if you can pull this off next year, because there’s a lot of them are coming back.”