The South Jefferson girls basketball team concluded the Frontier League portion of its season the same way it has for the last 13 years Monday night, as B Division champions.
But the road there was unlike any other.
Senior Austin Stevens scored 16 points and South Jefferson opened the fourth quarter with a run that put away General Brown in a 44-29 victory in the B Division playoff finals at Jefferson Community College.
The Spartans face Vernon-Verona-Sherill tonight and will improve to 17-0 with a win and enter the Section 3 Class B playoffs unbeaten for the fifth straight year. They havent lost to a league opponent since February 2009.
I dont think it was a forgone conclusion this year that we were going to be 17-0 and Frontier League regular season and playoff champions, South Jefferson coach Pat Bassett said.
So Im proud of where weve gotten. Weve won 13 (league titles) in a row and sometimes I think people just expect it to happen, but the kids really had to work for it this year, and it was a trying year.
The Spartans entered the year with question marks. They returned just two players with significant experience and five of their nine players are underclassmen.
Then Bassett was put on administrative leave for a week in mid-December, and weather postponements scattered throughout the season only added to the chaos.
South Jefferson played 15 times in less than five weeks, including a stretch of five games in six days that ended last Tuesday.
Its been a little bit of a struggle, Stevens said. Considering, I think weve done pretty well working ourselves through it and making it the best that we can be.
Senior Jenny McLean added: Its been really rough, we had to pull together at times that we didnt think we could and work hard to succeed. I dont really think that we ever thought that we wouldnt make it as far as we have so far, but we knew what we needed to work on and how hard we needed to work at it.
On Monday night, South Jefferson was up by just four going into the fourth quarter, but led 39-24 after its lengthy 13-2 run ended with three minutes, 27 seconds left.
General Brown (11-7) missed its first 12 shots from the field to fall into an early 15-1 hole. Emily Amells short-range jumper a minute into the second quarter ended the drought.
The Lions then went on a 14-0 run to tie the game at 15 apiece with just more than a minute left in the first half.
We play in spurts, General Brown coach Darrin Pitkin said. We play a half here, we play a half there, we just got to put both halves together in the same game and I think we can do that. If these girls come together, were pretty tough.
We were cold coming into this. The way we got back into it just shows the character of these girls, he added.
McLean and fellow senior Marissa Garland added 10 points apiece for the Spartans, who went 21-for-25 from the free throw line.
South Jefferson drained three of its first four 3-point field goal attempts, but made just 2 of 15 the rest of the way.
Its simple. One quarter well follow the scouting report and then the next, I dont know what happens, we kind of just dont, Stevens said. And thats what really killed us. Were that type of team where we have to have a game plan going in and thats how we win our games. We cant go in blindly.
Bassett said he expects the second seed and a Friday night home game against Cazenovia when sectional brackets are revealed Wednesday.
South Jefferson has won nine of the last 12 Section 3 Class B titles. It lost to Utica-Notre Dame in last years finals at the Carrier Dome.