MARCY, N.Y. (WKTV) - Another Keuka-SUNYIT game, another game that came down to the wire. The two teams have seemed incapable over the last two seasons of playing a stress-free game in either direction, and Saturday's contest was no different as the Storm prevailed, 87-80.
The first half of Saturday's game was all Danielle Gravel. The Keuka guard netted an amazing 20 points in the first half alone, draining four three-pointers and 6 of 12 from the field overall.
As all contests between the two teams seem to be, the first half was back and forth. Lyndsey Brognano (Rome, N.Y. / Rome Free Academy) got the crowd going to start the game by banking in a deep three-pointer on the Wildcats' first possession of the game. From there SUNYIT would push the lead all the way up to 34-23 (a layup by Geena Gallo (Ballston Spa, N.Y. / Ballston Spa)) with just over six minutes to play in the half. But any follower of the SUNYIT-Keuka rivalry the last two years would know that wouldn't last for long; the visitors responded true to form with a 13-4 run to pull within two at 38-36.
Wildcat veterans Kayla McNeil (Stillwater, N.Y. / Stillwater) and Abbey Hanehan (Stillwater, N.Y.) showed their experience in expecting and responding to the Keuka run. The pair combined to score all ten of the Wildcats' points to end the half, sending SUNYIT into the locker room up five, 44-39.
In the second half, the visitors quickly grabbed the lead and held it most of the second half. Ultimately, though, it came down to what observant fans expected all along: the score tied and less than two minutes to play (in this case, 80-80 with 1:34 to play).
With the near-capacity crowd at a fever pitch, the Wildcats came down looking to run a play. Unfortunately for the home team, Keuka point guard Jessica Bandrowski, as she always seems to, made a big play - stealing a pass from Kayla McNeil intended for Emily Alicea. Alicea raced back on defense and nearly thwarted the fast break, but Bandrowski was able to handle the pressure and score the layup to put Keuka up 82-80. In the blink of an eye, while trying to advance the ball up the court on the ensuing play, the Wildcats turned it over again, as this time it was Gravel coming up with the steal. With only 24 seconds left SUNYIT was forced to foul Bandrowski. The junior made both attempts to make it a two-possession game at 84-80, and with time running out the Wildcats' fate was essentially sealed.
New York Mills grad Erica Pendrak had ten points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Storm.
For the game the visitors shot 44% while the Wildcats scorched the nets at a 50% clip. The visitors were able to tilt things in their favor, however, by knocking down 10 three-pointers to SUNYIT's 6, and turning the ball over just 9 times while forcing the Wildcats into 17 miscues.
SUNYIT will play its most important game of the season tomorrow when they host Wells College at noon. The outcome of the game will in all likelihood have considerable implications for the Wildcats' conference tournament eligibility.