The Batavia High Lady Blue Devils’ season came to a resounding halt Friday night as defending champion Midlakes rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit and cruised to a 79-66 victory in the Section 5 Girls’ Basketball Tournament Class B1 championship game before a packed and raucous crowd at Caledonia-Mumford High School.
With the win, Midlakes, now 20-3, moves on to face Dansville for the unified Class B title next Tuesday at a site to be determined.
The loss ends Batavia’s fine campaign at 19-3 overall, with its two previous losses to teams in higher classifications.
At the outset, Coach Marty Hein’s Lady Devils rode some sharp long-range shooting to stay in front of the Screaming Eagles.
After sophomore guards Bryn Wormley and Mackenzie Reigle each hit a pair of three-pointers in the opening minutes, senior guard Ryann Stefaniak found the mark for four three-pointers, including a buzzer-beater off the glass on a nice assist from sophomore guard Tess Barone, to give the Lady Devils a 20-14 lead.
It was more of the same in the second quarter as Stefaniak hit a pair of threes to give Batavia its biggest lead at 26-18. Midlakes quickly managed to pull within four, but baskets by Stefaniak and Reigle gave the Devils a 32-24 halftime lead.
Stefaniak scored 20 points in the first half – one more than her average – and outplayed Midlakes’ 23-point-per-game scorer, senior guard Alaina Forbes, who had 10 points.
The Eagles came out in a press to open the second half and Forbes and senior forward Macy Kisner each scored to make it 32-28.
Batavia responded, however, as Stefaniak drove the length of the court after a Midlakes’ miss, sank a layup, got fouled and made the free throw to put Batavia up 35-28 with 6:40 left in the third quarter.
From there, the wheels fell off for Batavia, which found itself consistently watching Forbes, Kisner and sophomore guard Cara Walker beat the defense for easy layups.
Midlakes scored eight straight points – on two free throws by Walker, a three-pointer by Forbes and two layups by senior center Sydney Passalacqua -- to tie the game and then scored 19 of the game’s next 25 points to take a 54-41 advantage into the final period.
Forbes had eight of those points, all on uncontested layups.
Both teams scored 25 points in the fourth quarter, with Batavia unable to get any closer than 11 points down.
Forbes scored 11 points in the period, often on layups after accepting long outlet passes as she laid back on defense. She also hit a key three-pointer and proceeded to play up to the Midlakes’ crowd which roared its approval.
Stefaniak added two more three-point baskets in the fourth quarter and finished her outstanding high school career with 35 points.
Wormley and Reigle had 16 and 11, respectively, while junior forward Emma Krolczyk tallied four points.
For Midlakes, which will face Class B2 champion Dansville for the combined Class B title next week, Forbes led the way with 35 points while Walker scored 20, Kisner 12 and Passalacqua eight.
Hein said Midlakes’ experience (with three senior starters) made the difference, especially in the way the Eagles exploited Batavia’s efforts to crash the boards in attempts for offensive rebounds.
“They’re a seasoned team which has been here before; they didn’t get to the states last year by accident,” Hein said. “They controlled (the second half) and did what they needed to do while we we’re kind of running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”
Hein said they talked about how Forbes liked to release early and thought his team did a good job in the first half.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the one girl on top to get back on defense (after intermission),” he said. “I don’t like losing but I’m not disappointed with our effort throughout the 32 minutes. It came down to (Midlakes’) wisdom, knowledge and experience.”
Hein said he believes the returning players "will be much stronger from this" and is optimistic about this team's chances next year with the return of Reigle, Wormley, Krolczyk and their supporting cast.
Stefaniak and Reigle were named to the All-Tournament Team along with Midlakes’ Kisner, Walker and Forbes, the latter being named Most Valuable Player.
Batavia seniors Meghan Houseknecht and Jenae Colkey have been chosen to play in the Exceptional Seniors game next Thursday at Greece Athena High while Stefaniak will play in the Ronald McDonald charity contest on March 23.
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Photos by Steve Ognibene.