Pittsford wins first title, 48-30, over Sacred Heart
East Lansing – Pittsford’s 16-0 run over a 7:40 stretch propelled the Wildcats to a 48-31 over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart in the Class D final on Saturday at the Breslin Center.
Maddie Clark, a junior forward, had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Pittsford (27-0), which made its second final appearance. Last season the Wildcats lost to St. Ignace LaSalle, 64-60, in overtime.
Scout Nelson’s 3-pointer with 5:10 left in the second quarter tied the game at 13-13 for Sacred Heart. The Irish wouldn’t score again until Nelson’s 3-pointer with 5:30 left in the third. In between Nelson’s baskets, Pittsford’s trapping defense created havoc and Clark’s proficiency on the offensive end enabled the Wildcats to take a 29-13 lead. Clark scored 10 points during this run, a run that took top-ranked Sacred Heart out of its game.
Sacred Heart’s bread and butter is its interior game led by Averi Gamble, a 6-3 senior center. Gamble picked up her second foul 2:46 into the game and was on the bench until coach Damon Brown put Gamble back in with 1:20 left in the quarter and his team trailing 11-8.
Although Gamble didn’t foul out her effectiveness was limited by Pittsford’s pressure on the perimeter. Gamble had eight points, seven rebounds and three blocks. She recorded a double-double in Sacred Heart’s semifinal victory over Stephenson.
After that 16-0 run Sacred Heart never made a serious run and trailed 40-20 at the end of the third quarter.
“That set the tone for the game,” Brown said of Gamble‘s second foul. “I thought the officiating was a little sketchy. It got to us.”
Pittsford, ranked No. 2, used its trapping defense the entire game and the Wildcats forced 29 turnovers. Coach Chris Hodos kept his starters in until there was 29.1 seconds left. This was partly in response to last season’s final where Pittsford blew a 20-point lead.
“Losing here last year was so devastating,” senior Laura Smith said. “This year, winning, I didn’t know what to do.”
Smith, one of two seniors, played 25 minutes and had eight points, three rebounds, two steals and two blocks but it was her conversations with teammate and fellow senior starter Madison Ayers that was so integral to Pittsford’s success this season.
Ayers, a 5-10 forward who was largely responsible for guarding Gamble, didn’t play last season after playing her sophomore year.
“I looked at Madison,” Smith said. “And I said you’ve got to come back. When we win a state title you’re not going to regret it.”
Ayers had eight points, three rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Pittsford had 17 steals led by Clark and Jaycie Burger each with four. The Wildcats’ constant pressure wore down the Irish. Pittsford scored 37 points off turnovers.
“Their pressure forced us to move faster than we wanted,” Brown said. “We couldn’t get into our offense. They got us on our heels.”
Hodos said last year’s loss was never discussed in the offseason. Instead, attention was paid to building toward this season.
“We worked all summer,” Hodos said. “It just paid off. Our kids battled and did what they had to do to win this game.”
Nelson led Sacred Heart (24-2) with nine points.
Burger had 11 points for Pittsford.
Pittsford is 75-2 over the last three seasons and Clark has played a major role in all three seasons.
“From when I was little, I wanted to win,” she said. “We want to keep it going.”