A lockdown defense and the domination of a star player in the first half propelled the Lady Blue Devils to a 57-49 win over Honeoye Falls-Lima in Penfield on Monday night.
The victory in the Section V Class A2 semifinal sets up a championship game for Batavia at Gates Chili at 6 p.m., Friday, against Pittsford Mendon.
Tiara Filbert, who, incredibly, has yet to be recruited by a college program despite a school record 1,530 career points, knocked down 23 points in the first half and grabbed 13 rebounds to help Batavia open up a 35-11 halftime lead.
That huge lead led to Head Coach Marty Hein's biggest frustration of the evening. The team came out on cruise control in the third quarter and almost allowed HFL a chance to get back into the game. Slack play won't win championships, especially against Mendon.
"I know it's hard for them, you're up by 20 or whatever it was at half time, and it looks like it's going to be that type of game, but that's not their job," Hein said. "If I want to pull the plug, that's my job. If I'm putting you on the floor, you need to go all out all the time. We didn't. Instead of me celebrating and being happy, I'm kind of not right now because Friday it's going to require all 32 minutes."
The team's flatness and a more aggressive defense against Filbert held her to only one field goal in the second half, so she finished with 26 points. Sam Cecere got untracked, though, to put up six points, and Taylor Stefaniak continued to fire from outside, adding two more three-pointers to the three she sank in the first half, giving her 16 points for the game. Ryann Stefaniak finished with seven points.
Cecere and the Stefaniak sisters will be key to Friday's game against Mendon.
"Tiara is Tiara and you're never going to completely shut her down," Hein said. "But somebody else is going to have to contribute or it's going to be a long game."
After the game, there were college recruiters waiting to talk with her, and of course, journalists waiting to interview her, and after each chat, Filbert wished each person a safe drive home, reflecting her natural tendency to think of others.
That spirit, that willingness to share, is one reason she's been overlooked by this point by college coaches, Hein said. She's been a productive scorer since eighth grade, but she's always been willing to distribute and give her teammates their shots, which has kept her from building the kind of huge point totals that put players in the top 100 recruiting class.
"She's always worried about being a selfish player in the past and that's kind of hindered her a little bit on her college recruiting," Hein said. "Wherever she goes, they'll be a lucky team."
Filbert loves the game. She comes from a basketball family and she's always trying to get better.
After each game, Hein loads the game film to a Web site called Hudl, and Hein is able to track which of his players are reviewing tape and how much time they spend on the site. Typically, the time spent is measured in minutes, but not for Filbert.
"I mean, I can send something in the morning and she'll find a study hall somewhere in the day and somehow in the day of school she still manages to watch it for two hours during the day," Hein said. "That's crazy."
Filbert said basketball is just simply her life.
"I was born into the game, basically," Filbert said. "I've been playing it ever since I was young. I watch it every chance I get. I'm able to experience it through watching my brother grow up in it. My parents come from a basketball background. It's just something I'm born to do."
As for Mendon, Filbert said she has to work on her own game and help the team get ready for what will surely be a tough match.
"It's good to have a close team because whenever we're down, we just make sure our heads are up," Filbert said. "We've got to make sure we stay with each other. Our heads are all connected and we're on the same goal."
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