ROTARY CLUB CHAMPIONS: The Batavia High School Varsity Girls Basketball Team with Rotary Club Tournament trophy, from left, Bella Houseknecht, Kennedy Kolb, Meghan Houseknecht, Ryann Stefaniak, Emma Krolczyk, Jenae Colkey, Bryn Wormley, Mackenzie Reigle, Tess Barone and Haylee Thornley.
It was only fitting that senior Meghan Houseknecht dropped in the winning basket in Batavia High’s exciting 59-57 victory over Wellsville in tonight’s championship game of 30th annual Rotary Club Tournament at Genesee Community College.
Houseknecht was a freshman in the Lady Devils’ basketball program in January of 2016 when her father, well-known Batavia businessman Michael Houseknecht, died at the much-too-young age of 38.
With her mother, sister, grandparents, relatives and friends looking on during the closing moments of a hard-fought battle, Houseknecht, a 6-foot center, gathered in a pass from tourney MVP sophomore guard Bryn Wormley and laid the ball over the rim and through the hoop with :06 on the clock.
When teammate Kennedy Kolb broke up Wellsville’s last attempt to tie the game, Batavia had escaped with its seventh win in eight outings this season.
Batavia Coach Marty Hein relished taking the Rotary Club trophy but said he was doubly proud of the way his squad handled the adversity of losing three starters, including their top scorer, senior guard Ryann Stefaniak, who departed with her fifth foul at the 5:12 mark of the final quarter.
“Looking on the bench, we had a lead, I’m thinking we need defense,” Hein said. “ 'OK, Tess (Barone) go in'; Tess plays hardnosed defense and she did a nice job for us to finish the game. And Kennedy Kolb came through.
“I would have rather had Ryann and Kenzie (Reigle) in the game but it turned out that it was a nice win where everyone contributed down the line.”
He also spoke of the way Wormley has stepped up her game this season – “she’s blossoming and it’s fun to watch,” he said – and called Houseknecht’s late heroics “just rewards.”
“Remembering three years ago, it (her father’s passing) was heartbreaking,” he said. “Meg’s an awesome girl; I love her to death and it’s kind of fitting that she makes the shot to win the game.”
The game was close throughout as the teams were never separated by more than seven points.
Wellsville, now 7-2, was up by seven with two minutes left in the third quarter before Batavia ended the period on an 11-1 run with key hoops by Wormley, Reigle and Stefaniak.
Batavia grabbed its biggest lead, 48-43, on a basket by Wormley to open the fourth-quarter scoring, but Wellsville, which kept Batavia off balance with accurate long-distance shooting, pulled ahead 51-50 with 3:45 to play on a three-point shot by senior guard Taylor Adams.
Wellsville made it 53-50 on a pair of free throws by senior guard Jana Whitehouse, but Wormley responded with a three-pointer at the 2:55 mark to tie it at 53-53.
After a free throw by Wellsville’s freshman guard Marley Adams, Batavia scored four straight on a driving layup by sophomore guard Reigle and two foul shots by Wormley to take a 57-54 edge with 1:06 to play.
A pair of free throws by Adams on separate trips down the floor pulled Wellsville within a point and a free throw by senior guard Quincy Buckley with 15 seconds left made it 57-57.
Batavia inbounded the ball, with senior forward Jenae Colkey managing to escape pressure to get the ball to Wormley, who drove down the left side of the lane before lobbing it in to Houseknecht for the decisive bucket.
“The play was to get the ball to Bryn because she was the facilitator at the point in the game – the person who could either make the right pass or get into position to score,” Hein said.
Houseknecht said she was able to get free underneath by virtue of a screen from Kolb and was able to complete the play.
“When I cut through I saw I had a mismatch as the girl was shorter, and Bryn made a good pass to me,” she said. “I knew when I got the ball that I had to shoot it (right away), and fortunately it went in.”
Ironically, the basket was Houseknecht’s only two points of the game and touched off a wild celebration from the Batavia fans.
“All week we were super-excited to play in the tournament and then after winning on Wednesday (against Caledonia-Mumford) to play in the championship game,” Houseknecht said.
Stefaniak led the Batavia scoring with 19 points – five of them in the closing seconds of the first half to pull her team within two at 29-27 at intermission.
Wormley tallied 16 while Reigle and junior forward Emma Krolczyk, who both fouled out in the game’s closing minute, added 13 and nine points, respectively.
For Wellsville, Buckley led the way with 17 – including four three-point baskets -- and junior center Regan Marsh added 13. All told, Wellsville sank eight three-pointers.
We knew that they were an outside shooting team, we were worried more about Winehouse – and Buckley was popping them,” Hein said. “We knew what we were up against … We didn’t close out soon enough – they were popping.”
Stefaniak, Adams and Buckley made the all-tournament team along with Notre Dame’s Callie McCulley (ND defeated Cal-Mum in the consolation game) while Reigle earned the Sportsmanship Award.
Photos by Thomas Ognibene. To view or purchase photos, click here.