Screaming Eagles hold off Dansville NYS Qualifier

AVON – Midlakes was able to hold off a furious fourth quarter comeback attempt from the Dansville Mustangs Tuesday in Avon in order to earn a 68-56 win and a spot in the NYS Far West Regional.

“I’m very proud of the girls. They’ve all put in a ton of work throughout the season. They played hard and gave me their best effort. There are a few things we need to clean up in the offseason, but they are a great bunch of kids and I couldn’t have asked for too much more this season,” said Dansville head coach Kristen Moose.

With the loss, Dansville’s historic season comes to a close. The Mustangs finished the year as undefeated Section V, Class B2 Champions, the first in program history.

“We talked. I told them after the game how proud of was of them, and they are happy (with the season). The seniors are very optimistic that the girls will just continue this and they’ll be able to come back and visit anytime,” said Moose. “They also know that this is a special group, because this specific group will never be together again. This team is special.”

Midlakes started the game in a full court zone press, slowing the Mustangs down and forcing passes over the top. The Screaming Eagles were smart and quick in the back of that zone, picking off a few passes that eventually led to a 7-2 lead halfway through the first.

The Eagles offense continued to hold on to its lead late in the quarter by getting to the free throw line. Then a 3-pointer from Hannah Galloway and a 4-0 run in the final 30 seconds made it an 18-10 lead at the end of one.

Midlakes then scored on its very first possession of the second, and the lead grew to double digits.

But Dansville responded quickly, ripping off a 5-0 run that began a series of runs by each squad. Midlakes would get a pair of buckets, only to have the Mustangs respond with a few of their own.

Just before the halfway point of the second, Dansville ripped off the biggest run of all, a 6-0 spurt that cut the lead down to 24-21.

The final minutes of the half were dominated by the defenses, however. Each team tightened up its defensive strategy, and dialed up the pressure in an effort to force tough shots.

Neither group had group had a field goal for the next three minutes, but the Screaming Eagles offense hit a few final jumpers and free throws in the final minute of the half to take a 30-23 lead into the break.

Midlakes was led by Alaina Forbes’ 16 points in the first half, and she came out in the second and quickly asserted her dominance once again. The senior scored the first four points of the third, giving Midlakes a 34-23 just two minutes into the second half.

From there, the Screaming Eagles defense took over. Midlakes flew all over the court and then turned around very quickly to get out on the fast break. The 5-0 run that ended the first half slowly grew into a 13-0 run that lasted almost six minutes.

The Mustangs did stop the run, but Midlakes’ lead continued to grow in the final minutes of the third quarter. The Screaming Eagles ended the quarter with a 12-6 advantage, giving them a 46-29 lead going into the fourth.

The lead grew to 20 early in the frame and hovered right around there for much of the quarter. Dansville moved into a full court press in an attempt to force turnovers, but the Midlakes ballhandlers handled it efficiently to keep up the lead.

But with just over four minutes left to play, the Mustangs made their move. Dansville picked up the pace of its offense, and forced the ball inside to Arayana Young as a 9-0 run forced Midlakes to take a timeout with the lead cut to 55-44 and three minutes left in the game.

Dansville knocked down another bucket after the break to make it a single-digit game, but Midlakes slowed the pace down to a halt and forced Dansville to begin fouling in order to preserve time.

But Midlakes was strong at the line, and by the time the final buzzer sounded, the Screaming Eagles has advanced to the NYS Far West Regional with a 68-56 win over Dansville.

The Mustangs were led by Jackie Blechinger. The senior finished her career with a dominating double-double, turning in 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. Arayana Young also added a double-double, contributing 13 points, 10 rebounds. three assists and one steal. Hannah LaPlant buried some big shots throughout the night en route to 14 points, one rebounds, three assists and one steal. Grace Rittenhouse also reached double figure scoring with 10 points, two rebounds, three assists and one steal.

While most of the Mustangs will return to the roster next season, there are a few seniors that the Mustangs will have to replace. And it will be very difficult, considering that this class is the most successful in Dansville history.

“The three seniors are a great bunch. They put in a ton of work since ninth grade year when I got hear. They’ve gone to summer camps, done AAU, the weight room, all that stuff. They lead by example in the classroom and the community. And they are the group I would ask for to help the rising of a program. They are great examples for the younger ones to follow,” said Moose.