Elba 66, Avoca/Prattsburgh 27
Unlike most sections, a five week sprint in Section V basketball culminated with a sectional playoff week. Saturday, the last day of the season in many regions including this one, was when the Class B & D split classes determined their champions. The action-packed day tipped in the western reaches of the 585, where Elba left no doubt on its home court and sent a special senior class home with one for the thumb, a 5th straight Section V Class D2 championship.
|Brynn Walczak dropped 12 of her game high 22 points in the 3rd quarter in Elba's victory.|
The game's first points were scored by Riley Stowe (A/P 2022) on their opening possession, but that was the only time they'd hold a lead as Elba got it going from the jump. Fueled by solid execution and a press that their opponents had a great deal of trouble with, they reeled off eight straight points with four coming from Brynn Walczak (Elba 2021). When it looked like A/P was starting to steady the ship after a couple buckets, Elba answered with a 9-0 run - starting with a Leah Bezon (Elba 2021) bucket and ending with two Walczak free throws - to end the 1st quarter up 20-6. They would continue to stretch the lead in the 2nd. A/P held Elba scoreless for nearly three minutes to start the quarter and briefly cut their deficit to 10 with a Lucia D'Arpino (A/P 2021) bucket & two Stowe free throws, but three of Elba's seniors joined forces for a 7-0 spurt in response. After Stowe scored again at the 3:43 mark, A/P would go scoreless for a period that stretched deep into the 3rd quarter as Elba began to break it wide open. It started in the 1st half's waning moments, as Taylor Augello (Elba 2021) hit a runner & Maddie Muehlig (Elba 2021) added a trey before intermission to extend their lead to 32-12.
If a 20 point halftime lead didn't get the point across, Elba's 3rd quarter was its most dominant. Walczak & Muehlig started it by hitting threes, and between the continued guard pressure and successfully preventing their opponents from taking advantage of their size in the half-court, they rolled ahead for most of the frame. Walczak had 12 in the quarter on her own and they scored the first 21 of the half, extending the overall run to 26-0 dating back to before the break. It was 53-12 when Stowe scored with 2:12 left in the 3rd quarter to break the long run. Elba stretched their lead to as much as 45 in the 4th quarter before Avoca/Prattsburgh scored 9 of the game's last 12 points.
Brynn Walczak led a versatile Lancer attack with 22 points, 12 of them coming in the 3rd quarter. She was joined in double digits by fellow seniors Taylor Augello (Elba 2021) and Maddie Muehlig, who contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively. Leah Bezon added 9 points, 7 of them in the 1st quarter. Avoca/Prattsburgh was paced by Kamryn Edwards (A/P 2024), who had 7 of her team high 9 points in the 4th quarter. Riley Stowe added 8.
|Lucia D'Arpino chipped in with 6 points in Avoca/Prattsburgh's defeat to Elba.|
- It had been a couple years since I watched Elba play, but it was basically the same crew on the court Saturday as it was when they were winning crowns then, which says something. In just a few minutes of action, it was easy to see why they ran through their competition this winter. Offensively, they can put five players on the court that are legitimate scoring weapons. They're led by a gang of prolific scorers that have been around for a long time - more on that shortly - but it seems like everyone that gets minutes has to be respected as an option. That's a relative rarity in high school basketball, especially among the small school ranks. Their unselfishness and crisp ball & player movement adds another dimension & makes them considerably more difficult to defend. Defensively, they're athletic enough to cause problems with their pressure - a 1-2-2 3/4 court did the trick Saturday - and disciplined & tough enough to lock up in the half-court. Their record in the condensed season was 14-0, and the team numbers were impressive; they scored 50+ in every game and 60+ in ten games, and they only gave up 50 once & held their opponents under 40 ten times as well. Watching how they handled business Saturday, those consistent numbers throughout the season aren't a surprise.
- Avoca/Prattsburgh's strength in this matchup was their size, and they tried to go to the blocks as much as possible. Elba didn't let it happen. As a smaller team, your best post defense often can be active ball pressure from the guards, and that was often the case here. A/P had trouble getting the ball into areas where the post entry was an option, and they didn't allow guards to feel comfortable making the pass. Post defenders also tried to deny the entry with aggressive backside help. Most A/P offensive production came from when they got post touches, but because of Elba's discipline & aggressiveness in denying the post, those opportunities were few & far between.
|Maddie Muehlig, who finished with 12 points, is one of three 1,000 point scorers in Elba's 2021 class.|
- Having a 1,000 point scorer on your team is nice. Occasionally, you'll bump into a team that has the luxury of two 1,000 point scorers. Then there's Elba, who has three in the same class. I'm almost positive that I haven't seen that in my relatively short time involved in NY girls' basketball (my 7th season in this sort of capacity), and I'd be curious to see how many times that's ever been a thing in NY. Brynn Walczak plays more of an undersized forward for them with her athleticism around the rim and post scoring ability, but also spends time on the perimeter and showed she can shoot the three. Leah Bezon is a taller guard, around 5'10", with a smooth shooting stroke. Maddie Muehlig is a smaller guard that also made the defense pay for giving her perimeter looks - nice to have shooters across the board. They all are longtime contributors & standouts that have surpassed the 1,000 point mark. Throw in fellow 2021 Taylor Augello, who was their 2nd leading scorer on the day (13 points) and the season... talk about an impactful class. I'm sure Elba will hope to continue this level of success going forward and they did have some youth at the varsity level that I'm sure will step into much larger roles, but it's fair to call the graduation of the 2021 class the 'end of an era' at Elba. Unfortunately there's no opportunity to continue advancement into state playoffs this winter - there's a strong possibility they would've got to HVCC and made some noise - but it's fitting that they ended on top.
- As always, a major thank you goes out to Elba athletic administration and Section V for giving me approval & allowing media (including myself) in the gym to cover this game!