Back in November, Gananda girls basketball coach Tony Morabito told his players, “It’s our dream this year to win a state championship.”


 


That dream came true Sunday afternoon at Hudson Valley Community College as Morabito’s Blue Panthers beat Harpursville, 61-51, for the Class C NYSPHSAA title.

Back in November, Gananda girls basketball coach Tony Morabito told his players, “It’s our dream this year to win a state championship.”

That dream came true Sunday afternoon at Hudson Valley Community College as Morabito’s Blue Panthers beat Harpursville, 61-51, for the Class C NYSPHSAA title.

Despite the perfect record, the win did not come easy.

The Panthers (25-0) trailed early in the game 2-0 until Shannon McGinnis nailed a 3-pointer from just right of the top of the key, giving the Panthers a one-point lead with 5:35 left in the first quarter.

On Harpursville’s next possession, senior Erin Dietzman cashed in a three pointer herself from four feet outside the three point line, just right of the top of the key. The Hornets then led 5-3 lead. Melissa Reeves made one of two foul shots after she was fouled by Amanda Frayer, leaving the Panthers down 5-4. The Hornets were then called for a shot clock violation. McGinnis dropped in two of her team-high 20 points as she then drove down the middle of the paint.

With the clock winding down in the first quarter McGinnis and Julia Pagano played a give-and-go to perfection as McGinnis made an easy lay up, giving the Panthers a 9-7 lead with 1:48 left in the first. With two seconds left the period Hannah Kimmel dropped in one of her six 3-pointers on the day, giving Harpursville a 10-9 lead to end the first frame.

As the second quarter got underway it looked like the Panthers were about to take control as they ran off five unanswered points highlighted by a triple by Pagano to give the Panthers a 14-10 lead. The Hornets came buzzing back and closed the gap to 16-15 with five minutes left in the first half. A minute later, Jamie Cannan made a sweet reverse layup for the Panthers, giving them a 18-15 lead.

With 2:45 left in the first half, Gananda’s Tiffany Gregoire gave the Panthers a five-point advantage after hitting a bucket from inside the paint. But the Hornets came charging back, as Kimmel made back-to-back buckets — first a two pointer, then a 3 from the top of the key — knotting the score at 24-24 with 1:48 left in the half. The Hornets went on to out score the Panthers 7-4, giving them a 31-28 lead at half time.

“I told the girls at halftime that it wasn’t over until the final buzzer goes off,” Morabito said.

Harpursville inbounded the ball to start the second half with Miranda Drummond scoring ten seconds into the period, extending the Hornets’ lead to five to 33-28. Melissa Reeves and Shawna VanEtten each scored buckets for the Panthers, closing the gap to 33-32. The Hornets went up 35-32 with 5:44 left in the third. Audrey Allen then brought Panther fans to their feet when she nailed a 3-pointer from just left of the top of the key to tie things up. Kimmel responded with five straight points to make it 42-37 with 4:20 left in the third.

Trailing 44-41 with 59 seconds left in the third quarter, McGinnis dropped in a 3-pointer from the top of the key that hit nothing but net to tie the game at 44 to set the stage for the final stanza.

With 5:19 left in the contest and the Panthers holding on to a 3- point lead, 49-46, Kimmel was fouled on a 3-point shot attempt and calmly sank all three of the freebies, tying the game at 49-49.

But Gananda came right back as McGinnis drove the lane and scored.  Kimmel went back to the line for a one-and-one after a foul called on Pagano, but the game’s leading scorer missed the first one. VanEtten picked up the loose ball at the Hornets’ end of the court, drove down the floor and scored.
With 1:45 left to play Kimmel made the last bucket of her high school career, as the Panthers went on to win 61-51.

As he gathered his team together after the final buzzer, Morabito said, “Ladies, back in November this was all a dream — today it is a reality.”

McGinnis was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, finishing with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Pagano chipped in with nine points, eight assists, and six steals, while Reeves added 10 points, seven boards and three steals. Kimmel finished with a game-high 30 points.