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Sullivan West comeback downs Spackenkill, 37-32

Fred Stabbert III
Posted 2/27/24

LAKE HUNTINGTON – The Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs were not to be denied.

Despite a lackluster first half, in which they netted just 13 points, the fourth-seeded Bulldogs turned up the …

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Sullivan West comeback downs Spackenkill, 37-32


LAKE HUNTINGTON – The Sullivan West Lady Bulldogs were not to be denied.

Despite a lackluster first half, in which they netted just 13 points, the fourth-seeded Bulldogs turned up the defense and made shots when it counted to walk away with a 37-32 win over visiting fifth-seeded Spackenkill in the first round of the Class B Sectionals on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs outscored the Spartans 24-12 over the final 16 minutes to erase an 11-point deficit and move into the Sectional Semifinals this Tuesday at 6 p.m. against No. 1 seed James I. O’Neill.

Bulldogs Coach Pat Donovan said that his team came out too tight in the first half as they missed some easy shots and made some careless turnovers, going down 17-6 midway through the second quarter. But little by little the Bulldogs came back, ending the half behind 20-13.

“I told them [at halftime] to go out and play hard and have fun,” he said. “We were playing way too tight.”

Despite the cold first half, Donovan was happy his troops were only down, “a couple of shots at the half. That wasn’t bad.”

The Bulldogs came out for the third quarter as a new team, and transitioned from a man-to-man defense to a zone defense to slow down Spartan ace Blythe McQuade, who netted 14 points, including three 3s.

The comeback started in earnest at the 5:55 mark of the third quarter after a short scoreboard malfunction.

Down 23-15, Bulldog Karlee Diehl put back a missed shot to make it 23-17. Diehl was then fouled on her next drive to the basket and netted a free throw to make it 23-18. Ella Herbert, who would lead the Bulldogs with 10 points off the bench, then canned a three and Diehl scored again on a beautiful give and go and the Bulldogs were off the leash and coming back fast.

With only two minutes left in the quarter, Diehl again dropped in a layup on a give and go and the score was 28-23. From there on in, the momentum shifted as the cheering crowd got louder and Sullivan West shut down the Spartans.

Guard Nicole Reeves was fouled and swished two free throws to close the gap to 28-26 and the Bulldogs got the ball back one more time, narrowly missing a three-pointer as the third quarter buzzer sounded.

One minute into the fourth quarter Abby Parucki drained a long-range three-pointer and the Bulldogs took their first lead of the game, 29-28.

The game would go back and forth for the next three minutes until Diehl again showed her muscle down low and canned a layup to put the Bulldogs up for good, 33-31 with 5:05 left.

Late in the game, Spackenkill – trying to get the ball back – sent Sullivan West to the line many times and the Bulldogs would can four free throws to seal the win, 37-32.

Spartan Coach Don Neise said, “The Bulldogs got key shots at the end. Give them credit.”

The Bulldogs improved to 16-5 on the season while the Spartans ended their season 7-13.

 Game Notes:

 Sullivan West played six players throughout the game – five seniors and one underclassman. According to their coach, their experience and tenacious defense was the difference in the second half.

“We pulled down almost every rebound and got to every loose ball,” Coach Donovan said. “We played very scrappy.”

Underclassman Herbert, who was nursing a sore ankle, played more than half the game, and joined Diehl on the interior to secure the boards. Herbert finished with 10 points while Diehl scored 9. 

Twin sisters Liz and Nicole Reeves, along with Abby Parucki and Sophie Flynn, were solid on defense, diving across the floor for loose balls and holding the Spartans to only 1 point over the last five minutes of the game.

“We are one of  those second half teams,” Nicole Reeves said. “We can play basketball.”

Nicole said Mr. Donovan had the team watch “tons of tape” on Spackenkill.

“We did so much research, we knew what they were going to do,” she said.

 Liz Reeves said, “It was electric. We were so connected in the second half. This was a team win. We did do a lot of research and had a long practice last night. It was really nice to bring home a win.”


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