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Defense paces Massena to title

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POTSDAM — The Massena girls basketball team got defensive about reclaiming the Section 10 Class A championship Monday.

By the time the Red Raiders’ battle was through, they had defeated the Malone Huskies, 41-36, in the final at SUNY Potsdam’s Jerry Welsh Gymnasium.

“Malone is very well coached and they are a well-disciplined team. This was definitely a defensive battle,” said Massena coach Roy Thomas after his team defended its sectional title. “Both teams did a great job of taking away the other team’s strengths.

“Both teams made a lot of mistakes on offense and some of that had to do with the way they were playing defense. We struggled offensively but we managed to score five more points than they did and that’s all that matters.” he added.

With the win, the Raiders improved to 12-7 on the season. Along with earning a berth to state Class A tournament, they advanced to the Section 10 overall tournament semifinals slated for next Tuesday night at SUNY Potsdam.

On a night when points were hard to come by, Massena’s Alisha Jacobs led all scorers with 15 points and also emerged as the leading rebounder with 11. Marissa Manley tossed in another 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Sidney Thompson chipped in eight points. Dominque Valancius added four steals while Steffanie Premo distributed five assists.

“We have seven seniors on the team and I think that experience was a factor,” Thomas said. “We beat Malone in the championship game last year and we had most of our players back. We also won our two regular season games this year. That gave us even more confidence but at the same time we didn’t want to be overconfident because we knew Malone was a capable team.”

Janelle Heden anchored the Malone scoresheet with 12 points on four 3-pointers. She also had six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Morgan Fountain, who opened the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, finished with 11 points, eight boards and four steals. Rachel Lamica netted eight points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.

The two teams were tied at 14-14 before Manley drained a pair of free throws to put Massena ahead. Jacobs then capped the 10-0 run with a 3-pointer with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the half and the Raiders went on take a 21-16 lead into halftime.

The Huskies opened the final quarter with a 9-2 run that cut the Massena lead to 33-30 with 4:37 remaining. The teams then exchanged baskets through the next two minutes and a field goal by Fountain made it 39-36 with 38 seconds left. After seeing teammates miss two straight free throws, Thompson calmly stepped up and swished through a pair of foul shots with 20 seconds left to seal the win.

“It’s tough to beat a team three times in the same year,” Manley said. “Winning Class A last year and winning the two games this year gave us confidence. Malone made it tough to score but we found a way.”

Malone finished its season at 11-8, but coach Shelly Skelly sees a brighter future for a team that featured only one senior.

“We had a very young team this year and when you have a young team likes there, they’re going to make mistakes,” she said. “The key is learning from those mistakes and we did that a lot this year.

“We talk a lot about climbing the ladder and trying to get better. Hopefully, the girls will keep working on basketball this summer and we’ll come back stronger next season.”

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