Defense Dominates as Lady Bulldogs Down Pioneer
Top seeded Kenmore East had an overall record of 18-2 and went a perfect 14-0 in the NFL this season which earned them the right to play a playoff game in front of their home crowd.
It was a privilege that the Bulldogs were grateful for.
“We’re a lot more comfortable on our home court”, junior forward Serena Sordetto said.
The Lady Bulldogs’ gave their fans a great show as they took down the No. 9 seeded Pioneer Panthers 63-46 in the Section VI Girls Basketball Class A-2 quarterfinals.
In the final minute of the first quarter, the Lady Bulldogs had possession in the Panthers’ zone. The Bulldogs lost control of the ball and went rolling down the court. Pioneer senior Bre Haley picked it up and had a clear lane to the basket. But senior Ken-East senior Kendall Mills chased down Haley and cleanly prevented the basket, keeping the scored at 17-15 at the end of the quarter.
That was as close as the Panthers would get.
As the second quarter began the frustration began to build for the Bulldogs as their shots just weren’t falling. Then head coach Jack Blanch called a timeout and calmed his team down a bit.
Afterwards, Sordetto and Haley traded buckets for a few minutes.
Bre Haley, a captain and three-year varsity player had nine points in the loss.
“She’s a not the most vocal leader on the team but she leads this team with her intensity and attitude on and off the court”, Pioneer head coach Pat Souder said. “She has a motor that just doesn’t stop.”
Ken-East finally took control as Sordetto converted on a three-point play. Mills followed up with a 3-pointer to put Ken-East up 30-20 at the half.
“Our shots weren’t falling,” Sordetto said. “I was frustrated and getting that three-point play lifted our spirits.”
Sordetto led her team with 24 points.
The Panthers were starting to climb back into the game as Shelby Cooper-Dixon knocked down a 3-pointer to bring her team within five points.
After the basket, the Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run in the final 2:30 of the third quarter. Sordetto scored five points on the run and ended the quarter by hitting a 3-pointer, making the score 43-31.
Kenmore East began to put the game away as Carianne McCarthy and Mills converted back-to-back three-point plays to give their team the 53-35 lead with four minutes left. Sordetto made a big block during the defensive possession in between.
The defense drove the Bulldogs to victory, especially early in the game when the shots weren’t falling for Kenmore East.
“We had to change up what we were doing a little bit,” Blanch said. “When we needed a spark tonight it was the defense that usually gave us that spark.”
The Kenmore East defense held the Panthers from having a scorer in double-digits until late in the fourth quarter.
Late in the fourth, big cheers came from the Ken-East bench when senior Kiara Smith made a layup.
The celebration was sign that the Bulldogs value the effort everybody puts in at practice, no matter if they are a starter or come off the bench.
“We need all 12 players to be strong in order to do well as a team,” Blanch said. “It’s nice to see kids get in the game and have an opportunity to score.”
Mills scored 21 points. Lexi Lagattuta and McCarthy each had six points in the win.
Despite the loss, Souder was proud of his team.
“I’m very happy with how our girls played,” Souder said. “We knew it was going to be a difficult task and executed well and tried to keep a really good Kenmore East team off-balance.”
The head coach was also grateful for the example left by the outgoing seniors.
“They have been a great example for what our younger kids need to be. The way they conduct themselves at practice, at games; they are great leaders,” Souder said. “You couldn’t ask for anything more from them.”
Kenmore East advances to the Class A-2 semifinals on Tuesday against No. 4 seed Olean. Tipoff will be at 7:30 p.m. at Sweet Home High School.
The Bulldogs will need to be ready for Huskies.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Blanch said. “Olean’s Sara Pfeiffer is averaging over 27 points a game. We’re going to have our hands full.”