The law of averages was bound to catch up with the Lady Panthers in their Friday night Section V playoff match with the Lady Blue Devils in Batavia.
Yes, Maddie McCulley, Sam Cecere and Tiara Filbert were held to only nine points combined in the first half, but they were getting open looks. If they kept shooting, shots would fall.
That's just what happens when good shooters keep shooting.
McCulley finished the night with 17 points, including a trio of threes in the fourth quarter, and Filbert notched 13 points and Cecere added seven as Batavia pulled away for a 46-37 to advance to the Class A2 semifinals at 8 p.m., Tuesday, in Mendon.
"Tiara had a bad first half, Maddy had a bad first half, Sam had a bad first half, yet were were behind by only three," said Head Coach Marty Hein. "There was never a time with these girls where we thought we would be only at 15 at half time. We told them, 'just keep shooting.' "
There was a time midway through the third quarter when the game had that feel of one that was slipping away.
Batavia trailed by 11, 26-15.
Successive baskets from McCulley, Filbert and Abby Allien, tightened the score.
A switch to a 3/4 quarter pressure defense got Geneva off balance and created some turnovers.
Suddenly with 18 seconds left in the quarter it was a different game.
Taylor Stefaniak, who finished with five points, sunk a crucial free throw (top photo) to tie the score and the Lady Panthers would never be out in front again.
To win, Batavia had to overcome a Geneva team led by senior Mia Morrison, 313 points on the year, 161 rebounds, 36 assists, 21 steals and 13 blocked shots and the athletic ability to dominate a game.
The job of slowing her down went to Filbert.
"She's definitely their star," Hein said. "We just wanted her to work from one end of the floor to the other. The first half we played a lot of man and put Tiara on her. We were joking around with Buddy Brasky (Batavia's boys head coach) the other day, about whether Tiara could even handle playing at the boys' level. When she guards you, it's intense."
The assignment helped get Filbert in foul trouble in the third quarter, so Hein switched the defense to give Filbert some help, but left his own star in the game.
"Tiara can play smart with four fouls," Hein said. "She knows, fine, let the girl score a layup, she's more valuable on the floor than on the bench."
It was an unorthodox approach that Hein stuck with when Cecere was whistled for a fourth time with about four minutes left in the game.
He didn't lift his junior center, either.
"Most of the time you sit somebody, they're in foul trouble and you sit them for almost a whole quarter and then they never get a foul the rest of the game, so it's like, go ahead and let them play, if it happens it happens," Hein said. "It's such a close game. It's a live and die game. We lose and we're done. We win, we move on to the next step, so we'll go out swinging, I guess."
Pittsford-Mendon in the semis is going to be another tough matchup.
Like Batavia, the Lady Vikings are 15-4, but Mendon also held Batavia to 33 points in the second game of the season, in the Blue Devils' most lopsided loss of the year, 54-33.
The Vikings feature three players in triple figures in scoring (Alley Phillips, 232, Darby Kreienberg, 159, Emily Sullivan, 139).
Even so, Hein likes his team, which he believes has really come together well over the course of the season.
"Mendon really took it to us in the second game of the season," Hein said. "We were good and played with them in the first half, but we got shelled in the second half. Our team has a whole different identity from the beginning of the year to where we're at now. Todd Julien is a great coach. Mendon has some great basketball players, but I like mine, too. We'll give them heck on Tuesday."
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