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Sewanhaka's late rally not enough in state Class A semifinal

Trailing by 11 against Binghamton Seton Catholic Central, Sewanhaka stormed forward and brought the game down to the final possession.

Sewanhaka's Flo Hunte moves the ball against Seton

Sewanhaka's Flo Hunte moves the ball against Seton Catholic Central's Lily Combs in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A girls basketball semifinal on Saturday, in Troy, N.Y. Photo Credit: Hans Pennink

TROY, N.Y. — The final four minutes, as agonizing as the eventual result was, perfectly encapsulated what the Sewanhaka girls basketball team accomplished this season.

Trailing by 11 against Binghamton Seton Catholic Central, Sewanhaka stormed forward and brought the game down to the final possession. Down two points with 8.9 seconds remaining, Sewanhaka missed a layup and its chance at a putback, ending the comeback bid.

Flo Hunte’s 16 points were not enough as Seton Catholic earned a 59-57 win in a state Class A semifinal at Hudson Valley CC. The Saints will play Mendon — a 44-32 winner over three-time defending state champion Jamesville-DeWitt — on Sunday at 10 a.m. for the state title.

“It’s all you could ask for,” Sewanhaka coach Alex Soupios said of his final play call. “I would do that 100 times out of 100, and to also have a second shot off of that. If you’re going to tell me that I get two shots in less than eight seconds, I’ll take it.”

A 5-0 spurt with under a minute remaining made the opportunity possible. Samirah Akinwunmi (14 points) made 3 of 4 free throws, and Mia Weinschreider hit a long jumper from the top of the arc, pulling the Indians within a possession.

Down 55-46 after Seton Catholic’s Marina Maerkl made a pair of free throws with 4:22 remaining, Sewanhaka leaned on its impact seniors: Carly Bolivar, Ashley Cattle, Akinwunmi and Hunte, who Soupios said he first noticed when they went undefeated as seventh-graders in junior high school.

“We just know that we worked so hard to get where we are,” Hunte said. “We didn’t get this far just to get this far.”

Bolivar sliced to the basket and scored, drawing contact, but missed the free throw. Hunte went coast-to-coast off a steal before scoring again on Sewanhaka’s next possession. Bolivar (15 points) capped the 8-0 burst with a transition layup.

A once-deflated Sewanhaka team trailed 55-52 with 2:01 remaining. Maerkl (13 points) ended the run with a basket inside, and Reese Vaughan followed with two free throws for a 59-52 lead.

“That’s the whole season,” Soupios said of how his team has overcome adversity. “We started 3-4 and slowly began to climb, and it was a steady climb the whole season, all the way through the playoffs.”

Known for its pressure defense, Sewanhaka made up for its lack of size against Seton Catholic bigs Julia Hauer and Maerkl with unmatched athleticism. Hauer and Maerkl still caused problems, combining for 27 points and 16 rebounds, but Sewanhaka forced Hauer to foul out midway through the fourth quarter.

Seton Catholic (16-4) coach Colleen Jayne praised the Indians’ defense.

“They did a nice job of getting their hands on the ball and not fouling,” she said. “They’re a great defensive team. Those four minutes were the longest four minutes of my life.”

Sewanhaka (19-6) finished on a sour note but can look back on its Long Island Class A championship, the first in program history.

“I made Sewanhaka history with my girls, so that means everything to me,” Hunte said. “I know it would’ve been so nice to get the state \[championship\], but it’s OK. We came far. We made Sewanhaka history. We did what we had to do, and that’s all you could ever ask for.”

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