SYRACUSE — The Waterville Indians are back in the sectional finals.
The third-seeded Indians overcame a slow start and slowly pulled away from second-seeded Sackets Harbor for a 59-39 victory Sunday in a Class D semifinal at OCC’s Allyn Gymnasium. Waterville (19-4) plays top-seeded Brookfield for the title at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Carrier Dome.
“(Sackets Harbor) is a physical team and we just had to grind it out,” Waterville head coach Larry Stockwell said. “My freshman (Janelle Cleary) hit some big shots for us to help us extend the lead.”
Balance was the key for the Indians, who had five players score nine points or more. Cleary led the way with 14 points, including six in the second quarter where Waterville outscored the Patriots 16-9 to grab the lead for good.
Molly Williams had 13 and senior guard Sophie Wittenbeck hit three 3-pointers to finish with 11 points. Aliah Decker — who also had three 3-pointers — and Kathleen Gallagher each finished with nine points.
“I think we played as a team,” said Wittenbeck, who’s been on Waterville’s varsity for three years after transferring from Notre Dame after her freshman season.
“Everyone contributed and we stayed positive and picked each other up when things weren’t going like we wanted. We know each other so well and that’s what makes us a good team.”
Now it’s on to the Dome, where Waterville will hope to win its first sectional title since taking the Class C-1 title in 2005.
“It’s everything,” Wittenbeck said of making it to the Dome. “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. Probably since I was four. I can’t even contain my excitement.”
This isn’t the first time Stockwell has been to the finals as he led the Indians to sectional titles in 1989, 1997, 2003 and 2005. A fifth would also accomplish a rare feat for the longtime head coach.
“If we win, I’ll have won titles in four different decades,” Stockwell said. “It makes me feel old.”
Section 3 Class D Semifinal
Waterville 59, Sackets Harbor 39
Waterville 12 16 11 20–59
Sackets Harbor 11 9 12 7–39
Waterville (19-4): Molly Williams 5-2 13; Janelle Cleary 6-2 14; Sophie Wittenbeck 4-0 11; Kathleen Gallagher 3-3 9; Aliah Decker 3-0 9; Laney Hinman 0-2 2; Anna Beach 0-1 1. Totals: 21-10-59. 3-Pointers: 7 (Wittenbeck 3, Decker 3, Williams).
Sackets Harbor (20-2): Jamie Lynn Mendelson 3-3 9; Hailey Martin 3-3 9; Kelsey Gonseth 3-1 8; Annika Menapace 3-0 6; Brooklyn Newcombe 2-0 5; Alexes Williams 1-0 2. Totals: 15-7-39. 3-Pointers: 2 (Gonseth, Newcombe).