The Tri-Valley Lady Bears were clinging to a two-point 54-52 lead with 1:21 left on the clock and hung on to win the Section IX Class C championship thanks to clutch foul shooting in the final seconds of the game by Katlynn Greffrath, Sabrina Smith and Sara Dertinger.
The tough 59-54 win over the Pine Plains Bombers propels the third-ranked Class C team in the state into the opening round of the state playoffs scheduled for tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Westchester County Center against the winner of the Haldane/Keio game that was scheduled to be played Friday.
In the final eight minutes of play Tri-Valley was outscored by the Bombers 21-18 but the saving factor is the Bears sank 50 percent of their foul shots going 8 for 16 from the free-throw line.
Tri-Valley's scoring of 18-points in the final eight minutes of play was led by Sabrena Smith with nine points and four by Greffrath.
It started out looking like another walk in the park for the Bears as they took a 10 point 19-9 lead at the end of the first quarter but Pine Plains outscored Tri-Valley in the second quarter 11-9 to reduce the Bears 28-20 half-time lead down to eight points.
Tri-Valley edged Pine Plains in third quarter play 14-13 to cling to a 9-point lead entering the final quarter.
Three point scores in the fourth quarter by the Bombers Brooke Hapeman and Frances Snyder and clutch foul shooting by Hapeman, Haleigh Funk and Tia Fumasoli kept the pressure on Tri-Valley.
The height advantage for Pine Plains definitely helped the Bombers throughout the game with 6-foot 1 freshman center Ashley Starzyk scoring nine points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking 11 shots.
Being undersized in almost every game they played this year did not deter the scrappy Lady Bears from doing their thing as players like Greffrath, Smith, Colleen Jones and Caroline Martin have the skills to get into their opponents and get to the foul line for what should be easy points.
Strong defensive pressure by the Bombers against Greffrath was definitely a part of their game plan but Tri-Valley's 1,000 plus career point scorer stepped up her game when needed by producing 3 three-pointers, four two-pointers and key foul shots for a game-high 22 points. She also grabbed down seven rebounds.
Smith's strong contribution for the night included 17 points, seven rebounds and seven steals.
Martin added eight points for the Bears while Jones and Danielle Shafarsky each had four points.
The Bombers had four players in double figures with Brooke Hapeman leading with 13, Tia Fumasoli with 12 and Frances Snyder and Haleigh Funk each with 10 points.
Pine Plains had 30 turnovers to Tri-Valley's 20.
This win pushing their season record to 18-0 is Tri-Valley's first girls' basketball Section IX championship since 2011 when they lost a regional semi-final game to Haldane.
Present players on the teams 2011 loss included freshmen Greffrath and Smith along with eighth grader Martin.
The last time Pine Plains was in a section championship game was 1984 while playing in a Section 1 final.
"We responded to a strong defense with a scrappy hard fought offense," Tri-Valley coach Jason Closs noted following the final buzzer.
Closs credited bench player Sara Dertinger "for a lot of hustle, grabbing key rebounds and being a big part of our success this year."
Commenting of the teams staying power when the score got down to a two-point lead, Closs pointed out, "they were going after it and sometimes it looked like we may be working too hard for what we were trying to get but we held our ground and scored some big free throws at the end."
Closs' thoughts on this win were "we put four months of hard work and efforts and ask the girls to give so much and I'm happy for them to get back here and win a section and move on."
Pine Plains coach Les Funk pointed out that his team, "made some mental mistakes and turnovers in a game that was determined by just a couple of baskets."
"The ball just didn't go our way and they played a tough game, hung in there with their experience and we need to know that they are a quicker team and the quickest team we've played defensively," Funk added.
PHOTO COVERAGE FROM THE TRI-VALLEY BEARS
WINNING OF THE SECTION IX CLASS C CHAMPIONSHIP