SYRACUSE — The Waterville Indians knew they were going to have to deal with constant pressure against Section 10 champion Edwards-Knox.
Knowing what is needed and executing the plan are two different things as the Cougars’ trapping defense took the Indians out of their rhythm for most of Saturday’s New York State Class D Regional Final as Edwards-Knox advanced with a 58-42 victory at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena.
Carly Frary had 20 points and eight rebounds, while point guard Koryn Rowe had 16 points, eight rebounds and four steals as Edwards-Knox (21-1) grabbed the lead for good midway through the first quarter and slowly extended the advantage to oust the Section 3 champions.
“They sped us up a little, but we had too many unforced turnovers,” Waterville head coach Larry Stockwell said. “We had a bad game. … We had an off day at the worst time, and you can’t do that when you get to this level. I take nothing away from (Edwards-Knox). It hurts right now … but we’ll be back. I’m still proud of them.”
The Cougars, fresh off winning its first-ever sectional title, advance to next weekend’s New York State Final Four at Hudson Valley Community College. The Cougars will meet Franklinville at 2:15 p.m. Saturday in a state semifinal. The final is set for 11:45 a.m. Sunday.
Senior point guard Sophie Wittenbeck scored 12 points and junior Molly Williams had eight points, eight rebounds and five blocks for Waterville (20-5).
“We came out frazzled,” Wittenbeck said. “We fell to their pressure. We knew they were going to press … but it was tough.”
Waterville was ice cold from the field throughout the majority of the game. The Indians made just 14-of-53 field goals, including 4-of-16 three-pointers.
“We kept in our 3-2 (zone) to stop them from shooting,” Rowe said. “When they started making them we moved it up.”
Led by Rowe and Abigail Hart, the Cougars forced the Indians into 20 turnovers, while center Riannon Holly’s 17 rebounds helped Edwards-Knox gain a 45-31 advantage on the glass.
“They outrebounded us badly.” Stockwell said. “We were making uncharacteristic passes and didn’t handle (the pressure) well today.”
Both teams came out tentative, with the Indians grabbing a 6-4 lead midway through the opening quarter. Then Rowe settled her team down, getting the ball inside to Holly and to wing shooters Carly and Lucy Frary, who combined for 10 first-quarter points to give the Cougars a 12-8 lead entering the second.
Rowe continued to dominate in the second, scoring six of her eight first-half points, while grabbing five rebounds and two steals.
“They weren’t ready for it and we definitely took advantage of it,” Rowe said of her team’s pressure defense.
The pressure also allowed the Cougars to get out in transition as Rowe, on several occasions, grabbed a steal or defensive rebound and blazed for coast-to-coast hoops.
“We wanted to move ball as fast as we could because we’re a fast-paced team,” said Rowe, who netted six points in each of the second and third quarters to help the Cougars take control.
With Rowe controlling the perimeter, Holly was tough for the Indians to handle in the paint as the junior finished with six points and 11 rebounds in the first half as the Cougars extended its lead to 26-10 with 2:31 remaining in the half.
Despite being dominated in nearly every statistical category, the Indians kept fighting, and after a pair of free throws by Williams and a wing 3-pointer by reserve guard Anna Beach with 35 seconds remaining in the half, Waterville trailed by just 11 (26-15) at the break.
Beach’s basket was the lone field goal for Waterville in the second quarter, and the Indians had to feel good about being down just 11 heading into the second half. However, Waterville couldn’t carry the momentum into the third as the Cougars pounced on the Indians with a 10-4 run to open the third quarter and extended its lead to 36-19 as Rowe laid in a hoop off a nice feed from Carly Frary with 3:48 remaining in the quarter.
Waterville answered with a 9-4 run, led by five points from Williams, but Carly Frary ended the quarter with a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 43-28.
Wittenbeck couldn’t find the range through the first three quarters, but scored all of her team-high 12 points in the fourth as Waterville made a desperate comeback attempt.
“I wish I turned it up a little earlier,” Wittenbeck said.
Wittenbeck hit on a drive to go along with a pair of 3-pointers to help Waterville cut the lead to 53-42 with 2:15 remaining, but the Cougars closed out the victory with a solid 13-for-18 from the foul line in the fourth. Leading the way was Hart, who made 9-of-10 from the stripe in the final quarter.
“We started out really slow,” Williams said. “We were just tentative and let the pressure get into our heads when it shouldn’t have. I’m proud of our team. This is the farthest we’ve made it since 1997.”
Wittenbeck had a memorable senior season as she surpassed the 1,000-point milestone in the Indians’ regular-season finale, and then led her team to its sixth-ever Section 3 title with a 52-45 win over Brookfield at the Carrier Dome.
“It was a great run and I’m so proud of my team,” Wittenbeck said. “I love this team. This season was amazing. I’ll remember it the rest of my life.”
Stockwell has been part of five of those titles, spanning over four different decades (1989, 1997, 2003, 2005, 2018). He now has 374 career wins which sits fourth all-time in the state for coaching victories by a girls basketball coach.
Hart finished with 10 points for Edwards-Knox. Kathleen Gallagher and Janelle Cleary scored six points, while Aliah Decker had five for Waterville.
New York State Regional Final
Edwards-Knox 58, Waterville 42
Edwards-Knox 12 14 17 15–58
Waterville 8 7 13 14–42
Edwards-Knox (21-1): Carly Frary 8-2 20; Koryn Rowe 7-1 15; Abigail Hart 0-10 10; Riannon Holly 3-3 9; Lucy Frary 2-0 4. Totals: 20-16-45. 3-Pointers: 2 (Frary 2).
Waterville (20-5): Sophie Wittenbeck 3-4 12; Molly Williams 2-7 8; Kathleen Gallagher 3-0 6; Janelle Cleary 2-2-6; Aliah Decker 2-0 5; Anna Beach 1-0 3; Emilie Phillips 1-0 2. Totals: 14-10-42. 3-Pointers: 4 (Wittenbeck 2, Decker, Beach).