Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Late Run, Big Night From McCulley Helps Batavia Notre Dame Earn D1 Title

March 13, 2021

Batavia Notre Dame 55, South Seneca 48

The Section V final tour concluded in the small town of Ovid for a clash between opponents from opposite ends of the section. The Class D1 championship was at stake when Batavia Notre Dame made the trip east to take on top-seeded South Seneca. In what quickly cemented itself as the most competitive game of the night, the last of 16 lead changes went Notre Dame's way and a last-minute spurt kept the hosts at bay & cemented a Section V Class D1 title for the Irish.

Amelia McCulley went off in the 2nd half, where she dropped 21 of her game high 30 points in the Notre Dame W.

The back-and-forth 1st quarter set the tone for the night, as an individual flurry on Notre Dame's side was offset by a balanced South Seneca effort. Lindsey Weidman (Batavia Notre Dame 2022) opened up the scoring with a pair of buckets around the rim, which was answered by an Allissa Fletcher (South Seneca 2021) three & a Lea Fletcher (South Seneca 2021) bucket. That started a string of eight consecutive scoring plays that caused ties or lead changes. Weidman continued her early run, scoring 10 of their first 12 points, and Amelia McCulley (Batavia Notre Dame 2023) started to get going with a pair of baskets late in the quarter to give them a 14-12 lead through the first eight. South Seneca used a 7-0 2nd quarter run, capped by another Allissa Fletcher triple, to retake the lead at 20-17 midway through. The lead switched hands a couple more times in the half, but South Seneca got another bucket from Allissa Fletcher followed by Logan Shaulis (South Seneca 2021) late in the half to retain the three-point margin. A free throw in the final second of the half from Emma Sisson (Batavia Notre Dame 2024) made it 26-24 in favor of South Seneca at the break.

The tug of war continued in the 2nd half. The first five buckets of the 3rd quarter resulted in a tie or lead change, and McCulley started to turn up the scoring output for Notre Dame. Another Allissa Fletcher bucket gave South Seneca one more three point lead at 33-30 with 5:04 left in the quarter before a McCulley free throw & basket tied it. After the lead switched hands on a Weidman and-one and Emma Fletcher (South Seneca 2021) bucket, McCulley rimmed in a left corner trey at the 1:15 mark to give Notre Dame a 39-37 lead. A late South Seneca free throw trimmed the margin to one going into the 4th quarter.

South Seneca would tie it twice in the final frame, but they were never able to get over the hump. Allison Kenyon (South Seneca 2021) scored to square it at 41, but Notre Dame would get a big sequence in response from Maylee Green (Batavia Notre Dame 2023), who drilled a three and then took a charge on the ensuing defensive possession. The Irish were held scoreless for three minutes in the middle of the quarter, where South Seneca was eventually able to tie it again after trailing 46-41. Kenyon scored again, then Emma Fletcher split a pair at the line & added a bucket to tie it at 46 with 2:53 left. McCulley, an area standout that averages over 20 PPG for Notre Dame, took it from there. She took the contact at the rim & scored to put them back on top with 2:07 left, then added two free throws after they got stops at the other end. Another bucket, this one a breakaway layup, put them up 52-46 with :45.0 remaining, then she capped the personal 7-0 spurt by splitting a pair at the line with :29.9 left. South Seneca would get back on the board with a Shaulis bucket with :17.3 left, but that would be all as they didn't foul to put McCulley on the line until the :01.7 mark, where she canned both to cap a huge night & a Notre Dame victory.

Amelia McCulley turned it to another level in the 2nd half, where she had 21 of her game high 30 points in Notre Dame's victory. She scored 10 in the 3rd & 11 in the 4th, including her team's last nine points in the final 2:07 of action. Lindsey Weidman added 14 points in the victory, 10 of them coming in a fast 1st quarter. South Seneca was balanced in the books, with Allissa Fletcher finishing with 12 points and Logan Shaulis & Allison Kenyon adding 11 apiece. There were 7 ties and 16 lead changes in the game, and the margin was 4 points or less for all but just over a minute of the game.

Logan Shaulis contributed to a balanced South Seneca effort with 11 points.


- I had two games before this one where there was only one lead change (at 4-2 in the opening minute), and the combined margin of victory was 63 points... this was a refreshing change of scenery and unquestionably the most entertaining game of the day. Fun to watch any game this competitive, and it's only amplified with a sectional title on the line.

- These two teams are at different stages in their development as a program, which also might be a way of saying look out for Notre Dame down the road. Amelia McCulley, who averaged about 23 PPG this season and pumped in 30 Saturday, is a 2023 (more on her in a minute). Lindsey Weidman, who was their 2nd leading scorer at 7.7 PPG but had a 14 point night in the finals, is a 2022. The Irish had one senior starter - Sarah McGinnis, who averaged 7.5 PPG on the year and had 4 Saturday (including a big 4th quarter bucket) - and two seniors on the roster. Most of their players & their offensive output will be back again. South Seneca, on the other hand, was particularly senior-laden. Every name that I mentioned in the post - Allissa Fletcher, Lea Fletcher, Emma Fletcher, Logan Shaulis, Allison Kenyon - they're all 2021s. They have seven on the roster altogether, and they accounted for a vast majority of their minutes played and offensive production. Per the Section V Girls Basketball website & South Seneca statistics page, all but 35 of the points scored in their 14 games were from the 2021 class. They have some 2022s & a 2024 on the roster, and South Seneca is pretty used to winning - they had another stretch of success recently, including making it out of Section V at the Class C level three years ago - but it'll be interesting to see what's next for a program that seems to crank out winning teams of late.

Sarah McGinnis, who contributed 4 points, was Notre Dame's lone senior starter.

- A coach recently got in my ear about Amelia McCulley, a standout 2023 at Batavia Notre Dame that I hadn't seen until Saturday... first look? I was not disappointed. She has the natural physical tools at her position - versatile guard, probably most natural at the 2 but can play on the ball some too, and about 5'10". Decent overall length, maybe even has another inch or so left to grow? We'll see. She's a three-level scorer that gave it to South Seneca in all of the ways. She's got range and a consistently smooth release on the jumper, and she was willing to play off the shot, get to the rim & take contact. She showed the midrange game along the way, and when she did get to the line - probably could've been there more in a different setting, pretty physical game - she hit free throws including 5/6 late. She scored playing on the ball & off the ball, in the half-court & in transition, 2nd chance points, pretty much everything except for a post-up. What I liked the most was how she turned it up in the 2nd half. It's not like she had a bad 1st half & snapped out of it. She was fine in the 1st half against a team giving her a good amount of defensive attention and then willed things to happen in the final 16 minutes. 21 points in the 2nd half of a hotly contested sectional final isn't a fluke. I'll be keeping a close eye on her game going forward, as continued general development and added strength could make her a legitimate scholarship prospect.

- A major thank you to South Seneca athletic administration & Section V for allowing media (and myself) in the gym and giving me approval to cover Saturday's game! It was a fantastic one and a great way to put a bow on the 5 week sprint in Section V basketball. Glad I could be there for it!

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