By Jordan J. Michael
VOORHEESVILLE –– Ahead by 12 points at the start of the third quarter against Mayfield, the Voorheesville girls’ basketball team had a chance to put its opening round Class C sectional game away. Instead, the Birds’ shooting went cold. The team scored only five points over a 10-minute stretch in the second half.
Voorheesville was able to kick its game back into gear last Friday during the final five minutes of regulation play, scoring 15 points to close out Mayfield while advancing to the next round. But, third-quarter letdowns have happened to the Blackbirds earlier in the season.
Call it the third-quarter blues?
“I don’t know about that, but we play better when we have momentum,” said senior Anna Feller, who scored 23 points for Voorheesville. She could have easily scored 30 if some of her shots didn’t rim out. “Sometimes, coming out after halftime,” she said, “we need to build that momentum up again.”
The third quarter started with a lay-up from Feller off a smooth pass from Katina Wallace. But, for the next 10 minutes, most of the Birds’ shots rimmed out or missed the rim completely. Mayfield was getting some shots to fall, but not enough to take the lead.
Feller said that Voorheesville has talked about third-quarter woes before. “We’re just a team that needs to build momentum,” she said after the 52-to-40 win. “We haven’t been building it so quickly.”
If Voorheesville knew what caused the momentum issues, then it wouldn’t be a problem. “We feed off of each other’s energy,” said Feller, “but sometimes we don’t have that.”
Towards the end of the third quarter, senior Anna Norris made a fall-away jumper for the Birds while being fouled, and Anita Salisbury blocked a Mayfield shot attempt. During the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, Voorheesville continued to miss shots while Mayfield brought its deficit to just three points, 37 to 34.
“I thought we had the game under control, but we came out and couldn’t put the ball into the basket,” Birds’ Head Coach Bob Baron said. “We had plenty of shots, but did not shoot well. It was a poor shooting night.”
Voorheesville (7-12) missed some lay-ups and aired a few three-pointers. The Blackbirds made 69 three-pointers during the regular season, but only got two to fall last Friday.
“We have to come out stronger in the second half,” said Norris, who made both of Voorheesville’s three-pointers, and scored 12 points in the game. “It was pretty rough, but we picked it back up.”
Feller helped the Birds find its thrust in the fourth quarter by working hard under the basket. She got fouled and made a basket off her own miss, made a hook shot, got fouled again, and then made a lay-up off of a fast break. After all of that, Voorheesville was ahead by 11 points.
The Blackbirds went to the Class C state semifinals in 2011 and lost in the Section 2 finals last season. Feller was a solid part of those two playoff runs, and remains as the only current Birds’ player with legitimate sectional experience.
“You need to know how it is to do well,” said Feller, who is Voorheesville’s most vocal leader. “The rest of these girls need to know how it is going to be. No game is guaranteed, so we need to give everything, all of the time.”
Feller knows that she and her teammates give all that they have, but it doesn’t always translate in every second of every game.
Baron told The Enterprise that Voorheesville can’t do all the things that it used to do over the last two seasons. For example, running three or four defenses at a time. This season has been more basic for the team.
In the third quarter last Friday, Voorheesville started pressing and rushing too much, Baron said. He wanted the Birds to slow it down and pass the ball around, which the team eventually did in the fourth quarter.
“You have to run the play and get into the flow before you shoot the ball,” said Baron. “The game didn’t need to be as tight as it was. We could have run away with the game if we finished more of our shots, but we let them hang around and that’s dangerous.”
Mayfield (7-12) hustled until the final whistle. Baron said he switched Voorheesville’s defense in the second half, having a player chase the Panthers’ ball handler.
“Everybody gives you their best shot,” said Baron of sectional play. “It’s one game and done. There is no tomorrow if you don’t play well tonight.”
Baron wasn’t clear whether Voorheesville played well or poorly last Friday, but he does think the team needs to shoot the ball more efficiently. The Blackbirds are a threat if its fast break and three-point shooting are working well.
“We’re small, so we like to push the ball,” Norris said.
Voorheesville’s momentum is fed by its fast-break offense and tight player-to-player defense.
“We need to focus,” senior Carla Planz said. “I don’t know how else to phrase it.”
The Blackbirds, the 13th seed in Class C, advanced to play Hoosick Falls, the fourth seed, on Tuesday. Hoosick Falls (12-6) is a very physical team, Baron said before the game, but he thought Voorheesville could beat any opponent if it knocked down more three-pointers and kept Feller active on the post.
Voorheesville lost to Hoosick Falls, 68 to 50. The Birds were trailing by more than 20 points, cutting the deficit to 11 points in the second half. Baron said that Hoosick Falls shot the three-pointer well while pushing the ball up and down the court. Wallace scored 15 points and Norris and Feller each scored 12.
“We didn’t quit, so I’m proud of that,” said Baron. “We just weren’t good enough.”
The Blackbirds finished 7-13 on the season. Feller, Norris, and Planz played their final game on Tuesday.
“That’s the fun thing about sectionals; you can beat anyone if you have a great night,” said Baron last Friday.
Feller said Voorheesville wouldn’t back down.
“We work really hard,” she said, “so sometimes we give it back too easy.”