03/04/03 Greece Athena holds off Fairport to
win AA title
|By Jeff DiVeronica
Democrat and Chronicle
(March 4, 2003) - They weren’t ready for
this last season.
But the Greece Athena girls basketball players, runners-up a year ago in
the Section V Tournament, gave themselves another shot at the golden ring
and this time they didn’t let it slip through their fingers.
The second-seeded Trojans let No. 1 Fairport fight back from an 18-point
deficit, but Athena held on for a 40-38 victory Monday night at Blue Cross
Arena at the War Memorial.
The Class AA Tournament championship game is the school’s fifth, but its
first since consecutive crowns in 1994-95.
Athena (20-3) takes a 13-game winning streak to Wednesday’s 7:30 p.m.
state qualifier against Hilton (14-9) at Webster Schroeder.
"This feels 100 times better than last
year," said forward Katie Pauly, one of four senior starters who returned.
"But after we lost we worked really hard to get back here, so I think we
Sophomore forward Corrine Keller, the other returnee to the starting
lineup, was named tournament MVP with 14 points and senior Lyndsay Dalton
added 10, including a huge basket with 31 seconds left.
Greece Athena’s Katie Pauly, right, joins teammate Lauren Sopko after the
Trojans subdued a Fairport rally to win the Section V Class AA girls
basketball championship at Blue Cross Arena Monday night.
"I felt so much better this year," Keller
said. "I’m more mature now and my teammates are, too. I owe a lot to them.
This is the best feeling."
Fairport was led by senior forwards Liz Hahn (12 points, 12 rebounds) and
Lindsay Ellis (11 points, 10 rebounds), who played inspired in the second
half. The Red Raiders had a desperate chance to tie it after the Athena bench
was hit with a technical foul for running on the court in early celebration.
Ellis made both free throws to make it 40-38, but with only one second left
from midcourt the Raiders couldn’t do much. Sabrina Boykin’s heave from 25
feet was well short.
"Give Athena credit," said Fairport coach Kermit Moyer. "They executed their
game plan very well."
Athena also handed Fairport (21-2) its other loss, 55-49, in the Monroe County
Tournament on Feb. 11. Fairport won the first meeting, 58-47.
Athena’s plan was to spread the floor to use its overall quickness against
Fairport’s man-to-man defense. It worked, as the Trojans led 28-12 at
halftime. Keller was a tough matchup for Ellis, penetrating and pulling up a
few times for jump shots. A 14-0 run produced a 16-6 lead.
Hahn’s free throws in the second quarter cut it to 16-10, but Athena scored
the next 12 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Keller, who was given
too much room, and Pauly, who burned the Raiders on the only trip they played
Fairport, meanwhile, shied from its strength down low. It missed 11 straight
shots, mostly jumpers, and made just 4-for-23 in the half.
"We had some some solid looks, but we didn’t get to the basket enough," Moyer
In the third quarter, though, the Red Raiders remembered what got them to a
fifth title game in seven years. Hahn and Ellis went hard to the offensive
boards and Fairport outscored Athena 18-5 to trail 33-30 heading into the
"They were just coming at us," Dalton said.
Said Moyer, "We just played harder (on defense)."
Neither team scored in the first 3:47 of the fourth and then three clutch
plays helped Athena hang on.
Keller sank a pull-up jumper with 3:05 to go. Point guard Lauren Sopko, a 55
percent shooter, made two free throws at 1:46 for a 37-32 lead and after two
Hahn baskets made it 37-36, during a timeout Athena designed a play for
Dalton. She ran off a baseline screen by Lyndsey Gallina, caught it on the
block and hit a turnaround jumper with 31 seconds left for a 39-36 lead. After
a Fairport turnover, Pauly added a free throw to make it 40-36.
"I feel pretty fortunate," to have won after scoring only 12 second-half
points, said first-year Athena coach Mike Butler, "but we’ll take it anyway we
can get it."