MARCY – The New Hartford Spartans came away with two huge victories Friday night.
Eighth-grader Kaia Henderson drilled a pair of free throws with four seconds remaining to cap a wild 59-58 victory at rival Whitesboro that clinched at least tie for the Tri Valley Colonial title while also snapping a seven-game losing streak to the Warriors.
Henderson scored 30 points to lead all scorers and junior Abby Buchholz had 10 points as the Spartans (7-2, 11-4) won their sixth straight. New Hartford also managed to come away with the huge victory despite playing without three players – two of them starters – due to the flu.
“It’s all heart,” New Hartford head coach Mike Callan said. “We were down three players and never gave up … and haven’t given up all year. We are playing really good basketball. The program has been down lately, so this is a really nice feeling that we gutted it out against them. Whitesboro is a really good team with good players. For us to lose two important starters and to be able to come back on the road, shows a lot about our kids.”
Kiley Snow scored 16 points to lead Whitesboro (4-4, 9-8), while GiGi Delahunt and Beana DeMarco each had 12 for the Warriors, who have lost four of five.
There were four lead changes in the fourth quarter as the teams traded big hoops. Henderson tied it at 57 by driving to the baseline and getting a short floater to roll in with 13.1 seconds remaining. Following a Whitesboro timeout, junior point guard Hannah Scott took it hard to the basket and drew a foul. After missing the first, Scott gave the Warriors a one-point lead with 8.5 seconds remaining.
Everyone knew who was getting the ball and Henderson took the inbounds and quickly drove down the right side of the lane and a foul was called on Delahunt with four seconds left. Henderson calmly hit both free throws to give the Spartans a 59-58 lead.
“I was nervous, but just tried to block out everything and focus,” Henderson said.
With one last chance, the Warriors got the ball to DeMarco at the top of the key. The senior, in her first game back after injuring her ankle, drove hard to the hoop, but her bank shot was a bit too strong and the clock ran out to send the Spartans jumping in celebration.
“This is huge,” Henderson said. “We just won the league and we haven’t beat Whitesboro in the last seven games … so this is a big deal.”
Making the win even more impressive was that New Hartford was playing without starters Sophia Murray and Basia Mwantuali, as well as reserve Rebekah Stolo. Callan credited Laura Allen, Erica Sheaffer and Jamie Sales for doing their best in picking up the slack.
“It’s next man up and I thought everyone did a nice job,” Callan said.
Whitesboro was in control throughout much of the game, but mental lapses and costly turnovers eventually caught up to them.
“We have some inexperienced kids and are making inexperienced mistakes,” Whitesboro head coach Todd Scott said. “I can’t fault the effort. I think (New Hartford’s) role players stepped up for them. They didn’t put up big numbers, but they gave them good minutes. Their kids answered the bell and we didn’t. They got a huge win.”
Early on it seemed like the losses to their lineup combined with a hungry Whitesboro squad would be too much for New Hartford to overcome. The Warriors built an early 13-4 lead as Snow, Delahunt and DeMarco came out hot from the field.
New Hartford, as it did all game, charged back whenever Whitesboro seemed to be gaining control, and after Buchholz put back a rebound, the Spartans pulled to within 16-14 at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter was a near carbon copy of the first. Whitesboro came out fast and pushed its advantage to 28-18 on Snow’s put-back hoop midway through the quarter. Scott picked up her third foul early in the quarter and the Spartans took advantage with a 10-3 run to pull within three at the break.
The third quarter was marred by poor foul shooting by both teams, especially the Warriors, who missed seven of eight from the line.
Whitesboro senior Taylor Collins was effective in the second half, getting to loose balls and rebounds on both ends of the court. Collins, who finished with seven points, put back a miss and the next time down hit one of two free throws to stake the Warriors to a 39-35 lead with 2:37 remaining in the third.
On the next three possessions, Henderson scored six straight points, going coast-to-coast to narrow the lead to two, and then making consecutive steals and lay-ins to give New Hartford its first lead (41-39) with 1:30 left in the quarter.
“She’s tough,” Callan said of Henderson, who came in averaging 24.4 points per game. “As an eighth grader she’s an extremely good leader and there’s no animosity from the other kids. It’s kind of a unique thing to see her doing what she’s doing.”
Those turnovers have been a negative trend in Whitesboro’s struggles of late.
“We are good enough to win every night, but we’re not good enough to beat teams when we make that many mistakes,” Scott said.
Whitesboro closed with a quarter-ending 6-1 run and, on three separate occasions, took a five-point lead in the fourth quarter. However, the Spartans showed their toughness and wouldn’t be denied.
New Hartford also had some good fortune in the fourth as Kristen Sellars banked in a 3-pointer with 1:42 left to cut Whitesboro’s lead to 55-53. On its next possession, Sheaffer banked home a foul shot to cut the lead to one.
Despite New Hartford’s fortunate rolls, Whitesboro still had every chance to win the game. DeMarco’s drive and 12-foot floater for a hoop gave the Warriors a 57-54 lead with 48.2 remaining. After Buchholz converted one-of-two free throws to draw the Spartans closer with 34.8 seconds left, Callan called a timeout to set up the press and strategy on trying to get the steal and then fouling. Following two non-shooting fouls, the Spartans got the break they needed as the Warriors were called for a backcourt violation, which set up Henderson’s heroics.
“I think it was the turnovers and us fouling when we didn’t have to at the wrong times,” DeMarco said about what cost the Warriors.
This is the first league title for the Spartans since 2011-12, and finally getting the best of the Warriors is icing on the cake. Their last win over Whitesboro came on Feb. 4, 2014.
“It’s amazing,” Buchholz said. “I think we wanted it more. We knew after they beat us the first time that we had to beat them. It’s been too long.”
Whitesboro won the league title the past two seasons and six of the last nine. The Warriors have time to get things back on track as they play at Proctor Tuesday night, and then finish out the regular season with home games against RFA (Feb. 9) and Camden (Feb. 12).
“It’s going to take a lot of discipline in practice,” DeMarco said of turning things around. “It’s mostly being strong with the ball. I think we are getting away from how we are coached to play.”
Sellars had six points, while Sheaffer and Kaitlyn Daley each had five for New Hartford. Sales, who was moved up from junior varsity, scored three points and came away with crucial rebounds.
The Spartans, who host Henninger tomorrow, can clinch the outright league title with a win in either of their last two league games. They play at RFA Tuesday, and then host Notre Dame on Feb. 10.
New Hartford 59, Whitesboro 58
New Hartford 14 14 14 17—59
Whitesboro 16 15 14 13—58
New Hartford (7-2, 10-4): Kaia Henderson 12-5 30; Abby Buchholz 4-2 10; Kristen Sellars 2-0 6; Erica Sheaffer 2-1 5; Kaitlyn Daley 1-3 5; Jamie Sales 1-1 3. Totals: 22-12-59. 3-Pointers: 3 (Sellars 2, Henderson).
Whitesboro (4-4, 9-8): Kiley Snow 6-3 16; GiGi Delahunt 5-2 12; Beana DeMarco 5-0 12; Hannah Scott 3-1 7; Taylor Collins 3-1 7; Grace Stuhlman 0-2 2, Kelsey Wands 1-0 2. Totals: 23-9-58. 3-Pointers: 3 (DeMarco 2, Snow).