Story by JOHN ANDERSON, photos by STEVE HARRISON
HENRIETTA — Canisteo-Greenwood coach Les York has had a lot of success as a basketball coach over the years. He knows that a one-and-done tournament is the most cruel thing in sports, especially if you are the top seed.
On Saturday, the undefeated Canisteo-Greenwood girls’ basketball team finally lost, dropping an exciting 49-45 decision to #2 Oakfield-Alabama.
“We had a great season …. we just fell a little short,” York said. “The kids played as hard as they could.”
Sometimes, that one game and hiccups happen. Unlike a double-elimination tournament, you can’t recover.
“We just ran out of gas … we missed some early layups and seven foul shots,” York said. “It’s hard to win when that happens. We were in control for probably 29 minutes of the game and O-A hit a couple late three’s and got the lead. We led the first three quarters but we were out-scored 20-10 the fourth.”
But the game is not what impressed York.
Anyone can win.
It’s how you carry yourself when you lose. Canisteo-Greenwood did not know how to react, they went 22-0 on the season. But the teenagers showed character beyond their years as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the team had to face reality.
“During the game, the girls didn’t give up. Lillian (Mullen) made two key shots to get within three but they hit some free throws at the end,” York said. “The best thing about this game is, they never gave up right to the last second. These girls are one of best teams I have ever coached they are like my own kids. Some of them, I have coached for four to five years.
“I am so lucky to have been part of there lives both on-and-off the court,” York said. “I know that this bunch of kids are going to be great adults and that is what it is all about. Sports do not build character, they reveal it. And these kid revealed that they are winners not quitters.”
The 22 wins is a new school record and record for York as a coach.
“What a year. I am so proud of this team and they have done so well. To go 22-1? That is amazing,” York said. “They have nothing to feel bad about. We have had the most wins in my coaching career and for Canisteo-Greenwood.”
(Note: Chris Brooks, the managing editor of wellsvillesports.com has covered the Canisteo-Greenwood girls’ team all season. His excellent coverage continues. Here is his game report)
By CHRIS BROOKS
No matter what the end result was to top-seeded Canisteo-Greenwood’s Sectional journey, history could be felt from upon the horizon. The Lady Redskins would put together the season of a lifetime. A campaign like no other for the school, and for head coach Les York.
22 straight wins have allowed the Lady Redskins to earn an opportunity to play for their first ever Section V title in the Class C1 Finals, but standing in their way of potentially their greatest achievement above all the rest was No. 2 Oakfield-Alabama, who was looking to lay claim on their second title in the last four years.
The Lady Redskins would have the upper-hand all game long, but not by much, as Oakfield-Alabama remained hot on their trail until the very end. But in the final eight minutes, it would give the Lady Hornets one final chance to swing for the fences.
That swing would turn into a momentum-shifting home run.
With Canisteo-Greenwood hanging onto a 35-29 lead going into the last eight minutes, the Lady Hornets swarmed the Lady Redskins with a fourth quarter surge, as they doubled up the top seeds by a 20-10 count led by a clutch three-point game from Emma Wray and a 7-for-11 outing at the charity stripe along the way to essentially lock up the win in comeback fashion to hand them their first loss of the season, swiping the 49-45 edge to claim the Class C1 title.
“The girls played their hearts out tonight. We had the lead all game until the last few minutes. We ran out of gas, and we started to get into foul trouble. Oakfield-Alabama hit a couple of big shots later and the momentum wound up changing the outcome,” said Lady Redskins coach Les York. “We did get some shots late ourselves from Lillian (Mullen) and Brooke (Burd), but it just wasn’t quite enough to win against a very formidable team. Aside from missing a couple foul shots and lay-ups early, we played the hardest we could physically and mentally.”
To get the battle going early, Canisteo-Greenwood (22-1) looked to their top scorers in Lillian Mullen and Brooke Burd to deliver the goods, as the two sharpshooters combined to record 15 of the team’s 18 points in the opening frame, including a pair of Mullen triples from downtown to fuel the early fire.
The action would buckle down defensively to help close out the opening half, as the squads put together a pair of eight-point frames which saw the Lady Hornets jump out on top of the Lady Redskins for a brief moment until Bailey and Lillian Mullen helped regain the lead for the top seeds with under a minute left to go with the team’s last five points to earn the 26-21 lead at the break.
The Lady Hornets would remain on Canisteo-Greenwood’s tail all through the second half, when the two squads battled through another defensive spurt in the third quarter. One that would allow the Lady Redskins to provide another piece of cushioning to their lead going into the last eight minutes with a six-point lead.
But the tide would soon turn for the No. 2 seeds, as they saved their best quarter for last against Section V’s lone undefeated, as their offense came together at the most opportune time of the game with a 20-10 doubling up of the Lady Redskins, led by clutch baskets both from outside, as well as at the stripe, which saw seven huge shots out of 11 total go down through the twine to help spring back out on top, and secure the comeback win in dramatic fashion to hand Canisteo-Greenwood their first loss.
Lillian Mullen led all scorers for the Lady Redskins with a game-high 21 points, while Burd followed with 15 points of her own, as both Canisteo-Greenwood shooters earned their way toward All-Tournament nods. Bailey Mullen finished with eight points, while Peyton Peters rounded off the scoring with the team’s final point from the stripe.
An amazing and historic season for the Lady Redskins is now officially over, as the team finishes off their most successful season in school history with a 22-1 record overall. The team will graduate four seniors this upcoming June in Byrd, Triniti Tigner, Sarah Coddington and Emily Reitnauer.
“This was a very special team, and it was a very successful season to finish at 22-1,” said York. “I am proud to say that these are my girls that I coach at C-G. To have the season that we were able to have, it is a very remarkable achievement, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it. It is the best season that I’ve ever had, the school has ever had. There’s a lot to be proud of.”
Oakfield-Alabama 13 8 8 20 – 49
Canisteo-Greenwood 18 8 9 10 – 45
OAKFIELD-ALABAMA: Brooke Reding 0 1-2 1, Piper Hyde 4 4-5 12, Emma Wray 4 0-0 10, Allie Williams 0 1-2 1, Alea Groff 4 4-4 14, Caitlin Ryan 3 5-12 11. Totals: 15 14-25 49.
CANISTEO-GREENWOOD: Bailey Mullen 3 1-2 8, Lillian Mullen 6 5-8 21, Peyton Peters 0 1-2 1, Brooke Burd 6 2-4 15. Totals: 15 9-16 45.
3-point goals: O-A 4 (Wray 2, Groff 2), C-G 6 (L. Mullen 4, B. Mullen, Burd).
Total Fouls: O-A 12, C-G 21. Fouled out: Hyde (O-A), B. Mullen (C-G).