Lose to Chautauqua Lake 61-39
By Jeffery McDaniel
After four inspiring postseason victories, the storybook run of the Haldane Lady Devils skidded to a halt in Troy in the New York State Class C semifinals. It might be useful to think of a state tournament as a system of caves. In each cave, a dragon waits for you. You win by slaying the dragon. The reward is another cave, with an even bigger dragon inside. On Saturday afternoon at Hudson Valley Community College, Haldane found itself in the ultimate cave, facing a dragon from Chautauqua Lake.
Word on the street was that Chautauqua had several sturdy bigs to watch out for. Height in basketball is similar to gold; occasionally it’s overrated, but it almost always retains value. Chautauqua’s bigs definitely put on their hard hats and banged underneath — clogging the paint, altering and blocking shots, gobbling up rebounds, and converting bread-and-butter layups. But the adversary that surprised, the adversary hidden in the proverbial horse, if you will, was guard Courtney Hewes.
Now if you saw Hewes walking on the street, you might not expect much — she’s an unassuming, almost petite, 5-foot-5 — but she unveiled a bona fide arsenal: a couple right-handed layups after quick-fingered steals, a full-speed, coast-to-coast left-handed layup, and four 3-pointers, including one in the third quarter where she dribbled in transition from half-court to the top of the key and calmly buried a high-arcing dagger. You could almost hear the Haldane fans thinking: Are you kidding me? She scored a very loud 19 points, 16 of them coming before halftime, when the tone of the game was being established.
When Chautauqua broke a tough second-half Haldane press with three crisp passes, and then a role player promptly swished a jumper from the foul line extended, with about 6 seconds running off the shot clock, the Haldane faithful had to wonder: Is Chautauqua really this good, or did they perhaps offer up a sacrificial lamb before driving east from Lake Erie to curry favor with the basketball gods and hence are having the game of their lives?
The Haldane girls kept fighting, hustling, persevering. They are a valiant bunch, and they definitely left it all on the court and performed with class and passion and made the whole community proud with their achievement and hustle. Seniors Cali Schweikhart, Jess Harrison and Shauna Ricketts battled under the boards. Freshmen Marissa Lisikatos and Hannah Monteleone scrapped and trapped tenaciously.
But Chautauqua’s combination of size, speed, intensity and precision was too much; the three-quarters-court press they systematically employed in the first quarter stifled the flow of the Haldane offense, making it hard to get clean looks and forcing a number of turnovers. Their disciplined, swarming 2-3 zone was also a major nuisance, thanks to their long arms, quick feet and fast hands, making it tough on all the Haldane players, especially star scorer Allie Monteleone.
When Allie dribbled past a pony-tailed guard, a very tall defender was always there to meet her. Hands were constantly swiping at her dribbles, and the zone collapsed in on her. In the second half, she did create some space for herself, but shots that would normally drop rolled around the rim like a roulette wheel before trickling out. Hopefully Allie will have a chance to come back to the state tournament next year, when she’s a senior, and write herself a different ending, the ending she deserves.
Speaking of writing endings, Senior Sam Lisikatos whipped up a doozy in her last game in a Haldane uniform. Is there a gutsier athlete in Cold Spring than speedy Sam Lisikatos? Last week against Friends, she caught a hard elbow to the cranium, winced and gathered herself for a few minutes, then buried one of the free throws. Against Chautauqua, the combination of her quick release and soft outside touch allowed her to get off shots before the zone could get to her.
When Lisikatos looks back on her illustrious high school career, she’ll have bittersweet memories of the afternoon in Troy, when she unleashed a heroic performance in a 61-39 losing effort, swishing jumper after jumper, racking up 22 points, the high scorer of the game, earning herself a spot on the All-Tournament team.
The Lady Devils had an excellent year. They won four huge games in the postseason, taking home the sectional and regional banners. Out of the 64 or so teams in the Class C postseason bracket, they made it to the final four, close enough to smell the rose petals of ultimate glory. And they had their hearts broken on a warm Saturday in Troy at the end of a historically cold winter. It is this way with tournaments. The deeper you go, the bigger and stronger the competition. They were slain by Chautauqua Lake, a dragon from 400 miles to the west, a dragon that would win the state championship the following day.
It was a courageous run for the Lady Blue Devils. They made their fans and community and parents proud. They are graduating four strong seniors in Lisikatos, Schweikhart, Harrison and Ricketts. But they have a lot of homegrown talent coming back under the inspiring tutelage of Coach Tyrone Searight. They have the salty flavor of defeat in their mouths, and the cinnamon scent of victory in their noses. And they are developing an appetite for dragon tail.