TROY — The South Seneca girls basketball team left for the Capital Region Thursday with one goal in mind: coming home with the program’s second straight state championship, and its third overall.
While the Falcons will be the favorite to win the Class C title, Mother Nature did them no favors this week. The squad missed two days of practice due to school being canceled.
“I guess we’re going to take it as it comes,” South Seneca coach Heather Mott said following Monday’s practice, referring to the impending winter storm. “I mean, I believe the weatherman.”
Her belief was well founded, as the entire region was pounded with upwards of two feet of snow over two days.
“We went hard (Monday) and went over game strategy,” Mott said.
One thing that will help the Falcons as they head into Saturday’s semifinal matchup against Port Jefferson of Long Island is the fact that they have been there before.
“I just talked about that with the girls,” Mott said. “I said, ‘The upside is you’ve seen it. You know where our fans sit. You know what the locker rooms look like,’” Mott said, “but, at the end of the day, the same nerves are going to be there ... we just have to show up and play.”
Senior Bailey Minges believes the Falcons’ experience will be a big help.
“We know what pressure feels like and we know how to overcome it,” Minges said. “We come together, and we talk and we know what we need to say to boost each other up.”
While the Falcons, who also won a state title in 2003, have plenty of postseason experience under their belts, the Royals of Suffolk County are making their inaugural trip to the final four.
Port Jefferson (19-4) took down Haldane by a 43-30 score in its regional contest last week, holding the perennial Section II power to single-digit scoring in every quarter.
“Respectable team ... legit team,” Mott said of Saturday’s foe.
Mott knows her team will have to show up ready to play.
“They are there for a reason,” she stated. “They have a couple good role players, I guess you would say. They have a strong guard, a (5-foot-8) girl, so we have to do what we do well, and that’s just show up and play.”
Leading the way
South Seneca and Port Jefferson are very different teams, especially on the offensive end.
The Falcons (25-1), who bring a 23-game winning streak into the weekend, are led by their starting five. Kelsey Shaulis, Skylar Shaulis, Bailey Minges, MacKenzie Kenyon and Emily Lavarnway also were the driving force in last year’s state title run.
Each one of the Falcons’ starting five has the ability to step up and lead the way offensively, and they have shown that throughout this postseason.
Conversely, Port Jefferson is led by Courtney Lewis, who averages more than 27 points per game. The Royals do not have another player averaging in double figures.
Seneca Lake showdown?
It could be a most intriguing Class C championship game if everything falls into place.
If South Seneca can take down Port Jefferson, and Watkins Glen earns a victory over Mekeel Christian in the other semifinal, the championship game would turn into a “Battle for Seneca Lake.”
Mott, like most coaches, isn’t a fan of looking too far ahead, but even she couldn’t help but think about how special that would be for the Finger Lakes.
“Wouldn’t that be the epic battle?” Mott asked. “You know, we are 17 miles apart but we’re going to travel four hours to play it off. If anyone were to write the storybook ending ... how great would that be?”
The South Seneca coach is thrilled to see teams in the Finger Lakes region — Watkins Glen plays in Section IV — have success on the state level.
“What a representation from up here,” Mott said. “You had Mynderse, you have South Seneca, you have Watkins Glen — it really says a lot.”