TROY, N.Y. — Seeking a win in the state Class A girls basketball final four after losing in the state semifinals last season, Elmont turned it on in the fourth quarter to put away Buffalo’s Williamsville South on Friday night.
Zhaneia Thybulle’s three-point play on a jumper from the foul line gave Elmont a nine-point lead with 5:01 remaining, and her 22 points led Elmont to a 70-61 win at Hudson Valley CC.
The Spartans (23-1) will play defending champion Jamesville-DeWitt (Syracuse) at 8:45 p.m. Saturday in the state Class A final. DeWitt beat Elmont, 70-42, in the semifinals last year.
“It feels great, but it’s not over yet,” Thybulle said. “We came here for a reason, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do tomorrow.”
The Spartans nearly unraveled when Kem Nwabudu picked up her third and fourth personal fouls within the first minute of the third quarter. Nwabudu (13 points) did not return until 6:07 remained in the fourth quarter and Elmont struggled to find any rhythm, allowing Williamsville South to pull within 39-38 on Hannah Dolan’s reverse layup.
With Nwabudu out, Thybulle took matters into her own hands, swiping an inbounds pass and scoring for a three-point lead, then turning another steal into a basket seconds later for a 43-38 advantage with 3:30 remaining in the quarter.
“She’s a big key,” Thybulle said of Nwabudu. “She’s our only big and she’s our best big. For her to be out of the game, it was kind of rough. Everybody had to dig down. Everyone had to dig in and hold it down for her.”
Chiamaka Ubani pump-faked from the free-throw line, drove to the basket and scored with her left hand for a 45-40 lead with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
Elmont came out running in the first quarter, producing a 15-0 run with the help of a stifling pressure defense.
Jada Fernandez was a beneficiary of the up-tempo attack, scoring six of her 10 first-half points during the big first-quarter run. She finished with 18 points.
When Williamsville South (18-6) settled into its zone defense, the Spartans patiently passed around the perimeter until there was enough space for an open jumper.
Everybody’s contributions were needed to combat the 32 points scored by Williamsville South’s Amari DeBarry, a 6-5 freshman. She was a threat from everywhere and kept her team close.
Fernandez said beating a team with such a talented player made the win even sweeter.
“It’s really exciting because of the challenge,” she said. “We get to play against these big girls, so it was really fun.”