Tri-Valley Falls To Ellenville In Non-League Home Opener; 2014-15 Lady Bears’ Altered Cast Looks To Learn On The Fly In A Season Where Every Game Will Be A Test Of Mettle For The Defending Section IX Class C Champions
Ellenville 45, Tri-Valley 39
By RICHARD A. ROSS
Photos at: www.sportsinsights.smugmug.com
GRAHAMSVILLE, NY—In the changing landscape of girls basketball, Tri-Valley, the defending Section IX Class C champions, once the hunters, now become the hunted.
Their warm up’s bear the words “Defend It,” and so the re-aligned cast featuring a blend of experienced players and newcomers will assiduously try to absorb every lesson in this early part of the season and to hang onto every sage word of advice delivered from Coach Jason Closs with a mind towards making those two words more than a catch phrase.
Just two games into the nascent season, it is already apparent that things won’t come easy this year.
Following a season-opening loss to physical Class D defending champion Eldred, the Lady Bears braced for a home opener against Class B Ellenville.
Playing up in the early part of the season is the best way to hone skills in the crucible of intensity found against bigger rivals..
And so the path ahead features the O’Neill tournament with the Class B Lady Raiders and a pair of Double A contenders in Minisink Valley and Middletown.
Last year’s T-V juggernaut vanquished both of those biggies.
Following this year’s holiday break, it will be the Lady Dragons of Cornwall to contend with. You don’t get better running up big wins against tiny schools.
Tri-Valley needn’t worry about its overall won/loss record by that end of the first week of 2015 for it is the league battles that will determine the team’s fate.
That quest begins on December 19 against S.S. Seward, an immensely strong contender.
Last year’s 18-0 run that ended with a regional loss to Haldane is history and the scent of blood in the water among T-V’s league rivals such as. Seward, Chester, Tuxedo and Sullivan West, not to mention daunting Pine Plains, last year’s runner up in the Section, has those contenders licking their lips.
But if I don’t miss my guess, this year’s C-scape is going to be intensely turbulent and unpredictable. Whoever emerges from this side of the river will be battle-scarred and battle-tested. Pine Plains lurks in the wings with dominating Ashley Starzyk back in the post.
As for the Lady Bears (0-2) following this trying loss in a winnable game against Ellenville (2-0) , the lessons pertaining to foul trouble, rebounding laxity, turnovers and patience will have to be readily absorbed.
The team listened to a lengthy post-game classroom analysis from Coach Closs, exiting the session with their sights now on their first league clash, the impending one versus the Lady Spartans.
With the graduation of superstar 1000-point Katlynn Greffrath as well as fellow starters Sabrina Smith, Colleen Jones and Ashley Exner, this year’s squad returns talented seniors Caroline Martin, Sara Dertinger and Daniele Shafarsky, all a part of last year’s storied run. But their roles have shifted and it is going to take time for them to settle in to the changing schemes on offense and defense.
Other veterans include senior Jessie Lescynski, juniors Kayla Butler Ashton Krummack and freshman Morgan Shamro, as well as senior Ashley Johnson who missed last year due to a torn ACL injury incurred during soccer. Foreign exchange standout Sandra Alemany who is only a sophomore looks to add a new dimension to the team.
Newbies include sophomore Katelin Jester and junior Elizabeth Hannold.
Tri-Valley’s aggressive defense would force a spate of turnovers by the Lady Blue Devils, 29 of them in fact, but it would also lead to early foul trouble for a trio of starters.
For Martin, the early success in the game that featured 16 first half points would be blunted by a tour of duty on the bench. She would marshal only four points in the second half.
The title of this piece might well have been, “Line Dance,” for it was from the line that Ellenville propelled itself to the win. Going into the bonus with close to three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Lady Blue Devils would amass a total of 16/24 (66%) free throws by game’s end.
Try as they did to tie up the game or take a late lead, the Lady Bears continued to send their rivals to the charity stripe. In the course of the fourth quarter Ellenville hit six of eight from the line, the point differential in the victory.
Ellenville controlled the opening tip but promptly turned it over on its first two possessions. Alemany scored the first four points of the game which prompted Ellenville Coach Mike Guiney to call a quick time out.
The teams traded turnovers before Ellenville senior Melissa Mansfield scored and nailed a free throw to make it 4-3. Martin hit one from the wing. On her next trip up the floor was fouled and hit one of two. Her seven points in the first quarter would be surpassed by nine in the second quarter as she scored all of the Lady Bears’ points in the second stanza despite having three fouls.
Ellenville would be quick to answer though as they closed within two by the end of the first quarter trailing 11-9 and taking a 25-20 lead by the half via a 16-point surge in the second stanza.
Junior Diana Echols had six of those points. Mansfield posted four as did junior Tatiana Cruz. A lone bucket by junior Kassondra Little rounded out the scoring.
Things remained close in the third quarter as the Lady Bears got it within two points trailing 31-29 before senior Taylor Chappel nailed a three at the buzzer to give Ellenville a 34-29 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
Each team had scored nine in the third quarter and the game was clearly up for grabs despite Ellenville’s five-point lead. Again T-V would chop that margin to two but eventually the fouls which would signal the exit of Shafarsky and Martin took their ultimate toll.
Rebounding figured strongly too as Echols was grabbing board after board following Tri-Valley misses down the stretch.
Martin would end up with 20 points, while Alemany had eight for T-V. The Lady Bears were one-for-five from the line. Mansfield led Ellenville with 12 points. Echols had ten, while Cruz and Little each had nine. Ellenville played a strong brand of basketball, a better outing than they had evinced in their six point season opening win over Onteora.
Guiney was pleased with his team’s play. “Our girls worked like crazy and Diana Echols rebounded like mad. Tri-Valley is a good team,” he added. Guiney concurred that Chappel’s trey at the end of the third quarter was huge. “The girls settled down and played with more composure than they did yesterday against Onteora . We got minutes for everybody so they can start feeling it out and knowing their roles,” he added.
Closs started his postgame comments by noting, “We need to make better decisions on defense,” referencing the spate of fouls his team incurred and the resulting flurry of points from the line that spelled defeat. “In the first half four of our top six players had foul issues. We’re not a team that can do that.”
Looking back he noted, “We hung around and dug back . We were taking some good shots in he second half that weren’t falling and there’s very little you can do about missing jump shots.”
He went on to say, “Overall, we have to play more intelligently. We have to know what the foul situation is and each player has to know how valuable she is to the team.”
It goes without saying that not having shooters like Greffrath and Smith whose scoring made up for some other deficits, that scoring will be harder to come by this year.
“Part of our progression this year, we did return some girls but they are playing in different spots and in different ways so it’s going to be a work in progress. I don’t believe we’re playing quite as well as we should be playing.”
Closs has reminded his team that they will be battling every single night.
Battle stations ladies: here comes Seward.
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