CLINTONVILLE — The Saranac girls’ basketball team used an 18-point third quarter to pull itself out of a seven-point halftime deficit.
But with the ballgame tied at 43-all with one minute and 30 seconds remaining in regulation, AuSable Valley’s Meghan Strong thwarted the Chiefs’ comeback hopes.
Strong’s go-ahead 3-pointer helped the 25th-ranked Patriots (10-2, 7-2) to a 48-45 win in Northern Basketball League play Thursday.
AuSable Valley outscored Saranac by a 5-2 margin in the final 90 seconds of play.
“Well, we had two or three key possessions,” Patriots coach Roger Long said. “Meghan’s three was big. We were able to maintain enough possession of the basketball in that last minute-30 to not give Saranac too many opportunities to get a chance to score.”
AuSable Valley jumped out to a 25-18 halftime lead, but Long said both teams struggled offensively in the first half.
“We average close to 60 points a game,” Long said. “I think they’re over 60 points a game, so 25 to 18 is low-scoring, especially since we beat them in the first game 68-64. It took them a little while to figure out our zone.”
The third quarter belonged to the Chiefs (11-3, 7-3), though.
Kayla Napper scored eight points in the third stanza alone, while Saranac utilized a 14-7 run to pull itself within striking distance.
“We played a little out of character in that first half,” Chiefs coach Tim Newell said. “I didn’t feel our guards did a real nice job controlling the tempo of the offense. We rushed things.
“We changed our defense and went to a different zone and kind of got settled in. This group, when they decide to settle in and trust the offense and trust each other, we do well. We get some good looks and some good opportunities.”
The two teams exchanged the lead three times, while tying the game on three occasions inside the first 6:30 of the fourth quarter.
After Strong’s 3-point field goal, Logan Snow was able to knock down her fourth and final free throw to give the Patriots a 47-43 advantage with 31.4 seconds remaining.
Napper cut AuSable Valley’s lead to two points, driving to the hoop and finding a quality look underneath with 18.1 seconds showing on the clock.
With Strong going 1-for-2 from the line, Newell called his final timeout down three to setup a 3-point play. Amie Eggleston’s 3-pointer from the corner, however, rimmed out and time expired as the Patriots regained possession.
Napper paced Saranac with 19 points, including two 3-pointers. Kaitlyn Bowman (10) and Tori Trim (9) combined for 19 points in the team’s third setback of the season.
The Chiefs will have a rematch with Beekmantown on the road Jan. 30, and Newell expects his squad to regroup.
“They are (a) very resilient team,” Newell said. “When we lost to Beekmantown, we know we could’ve played better. We didn’t play well that night. They’ll come back to practice (Friday) knowing we’ve got Beekmantown coming.
“They’ll let this go. They’re very coachable, and they refocus. Bottom line is honestly, I don’t believe we’ve put together four quarters of basketball yet this year. We’ve played well in stretches. But against solid competition like Beekmantown and AuSable, you’ve got to play four solid quarters.”
Strong accumulated 19 points in the three-point win. Freshman Madison McCabe reached double digits, scoring 10. Taylor Saltus added eight points.
With the victory, AuSable Valley solidified itself in second place in Class B and Division I. Long thinks the two teams could potentially meet come playoff time.
“It’s a nice win,” Long said. “The old cliché, it’s hard to beat a team three times, so to speak. Right now, if we were playing tomorrow in sectionals, we’d be the two seed and Saranac would be the three. So you might as well throw the records out the door and say, ‘Let’s go play.’”
AuSable Valley 48, Saranac 45
Trim 4-0-9, Napper 7-3-19, Bowman 4-2-10, Gillespie 2-0-5, Newell 1-0-2, Eggleston 0-0-0, Dessureault 0-0-0. Totals: 18-5-45.
AuSable Valley (48)
Strong 4-5-15, Saltus 3-1-8, McCabe 3-2-10, Rondeau 1-1-3, Douglass 2-0-4, S. Snow 1-0-2, L. Snow 1-4-6. Totals: 15-13-48.
Saranac 6 12 18 9 — 45
AuSable Valley 10 15 12 11 — 48
3-point goals: AuSable Valley (5) Strong 2, Saltus, McCabe 2. Saranac (4) Trim, Napper 2, Gillespie.
Email Ricky St. Clair at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Ricky_PRSports.