Mustangs dominate first half for spot in Far West Regional

BATH — It was a tale of two halves on Tuesday evening in Bath, but the Section V Class B1 Champion Dansville Mustangs were so thoroughly dominant in the first half that they were able to come away with a 63-43 win over Penn Yan in the NYS Class B Qualifier at Haverling High School.

All five starters contributed in a big way in the first half as each recorded a bucket, and on the other end, all five defenders executed a perfect scheme as they held Class B2 Champion Penn Yan to just six points in 16 minutes of play.

“They play very well as a team, and they really know where each other is on the court,” said Dansville head coach Kristen Kershner. “They really don’t care who scores as long as they are winning.”

The opening minutes of play were very tense as each team adjusted to the other and the incredibly raucous crowd in attendance.

But Dansville would not keep the game close for very long, as the Mustangs quickly found their footing and worked out to an 11-5 lead halfway through the first quarter.

Then, Dansville completely took over. Arayana Young showed everyone in attendance that she is more than just height, as she danced around her defenders in the post and scored eight points in a 10-0 run that gave the Mustangs a 21-5 lead after one quarter of play.

In the second quarter, Dansville’s lead only continued to grow. The Mustangs dominated both ends of the floor and held Penn Yan’s offense at just five points for nearly 14 full minutes of play.

“I thought our defense was really good in the first half, and we were rebounding much better in the first half than we did in the second half. Holding a team to six points in a half — that doesn’t happen very often. That will only happen once in a while, so I was very proud of them for the defensive effort,” said Kershner.

Those defensive stops then quickly turned into scoring chances on the other end, where Dansville continually knocked down shots from all levels of the floor.

Penn Yan finally stopped the run with a free throw, but that’s when Grace Rittenhouse made her mark on the game. The senior captain hit a pair of deep 3-pointers from downtown Bath and got a steal and a layup to cap a personal 8-0 run that forced a timeout with the lead up to 35-6 with two minutes left in the half.

The pace slowed slightly in the final two minutes as Penn Yan attempted to stretch out possessions, but once again, the Dansville defense was simply too good.

Madison Lee buried one final triple and the Mustangs allowed no field goals in the entire second period as the lead grew to 38-6 at the intermission.

After the break, Penn Yan came out and put everything it had into a comeback effort. The B2 champions started the frame on a 9-2 run and then slowly continued to chip away at the lead for much of the frame.

But in the final two minutes of the third quarter, Dansville got buckets from four different players and kept their lead at an insurmountable distance at 50-24 going into the fourth quarter.

Penn Yan refused to yield in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter and even continued to cut into the deficit. But Dansville’s defense never allowed Penn Yan to rip off the big run that was needed to really make the game close.

Over the final four minutes of play, the Mustangs slowed the pace way down and attempted to get points inside via post-ups and drives to the hoop.

As a result, Dansville’s lead stayed above 20-points all the way into the final minute of the game. And by the time the final buzzer sounded, Dansville had come away with the 63-43 win and the right to call themselves the best team in Section V Class B.

“I’m always happy when they don’t give up and are able to come away with the win. We said at halftime that Penn Yan wasn’t going to give up, so we knew that something was going to happen,” said Kershner. “We came out a little flat in the second half, but now that’s something that we know we need to work on.”

Dansville was led by 19 points from Grace Rittenhouse and 18 points from Arayana Young. Madison Lee added 11 points in the win while Hannah LaPlant chipped in seven points. Dansville now faces off with the Section VI Champion on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. at Rush Henrietta.