Lady Bills advance to Class B title game
TROY – Hope Cerasuolo knocked down a trio of three-pointers and scored 25 points to power the Johnstown Lady Bills past Watervliet 49-46 Wednesday in a Class B sectional tournament semifinal at Troy High School.
The Lady Bills led by 11 at halftime before being outscored by the Lady Cannoneers 30-22 in the final two quarters. Watervliet tied the game at 43 with 1:32 to play, but a timely bucket by Cerasuolo and clutch free throws by Annie Stock helped to stave off Watervliet and set up a Class B championship matchup between Johnstown and the top-seeded Tamarac Lady Bengals. Tamarac edged Schalmont 57-52 last night to punch their ticket to the finals.
Cerasuolo connected on her first triple of the game midway through the first quarter, but Watervliet came on strong near the end of the frame to grab an 11-7 lead. Arianna Dockstader hit from downtown as part of a 7-0 run that ended the quarter and swung the advantage in Watervliet’s favor.
As Johnstown head coach Tim Derwin predicted prior to the game, the Lady Cannoneers pressed early and often. The defensive pressure led to confusion on the offensive end for Johnstown and more than their fair share of air balls. Brittanie Clickner made a three-point-basket early in the second quarter to put Watervliet up 16-9, but then the Lady Bills got scorching hot.
A layup by Cerasuolo kicked off an 18-0 scoring run for Johnstown with 10 of the points coming from Johnstown’s leading scorer herself. Alyssa Nellis grabbed the lead back for Johnstown with a three-point play midway through the run, while Cerasuolo and Kelsi Barnholt drained threes to extend the lead. Barnholt’s three put the Lady Bills up by nine and another bucket from Cerasuolo gave Johnstown a 27-16 halftime advantage.
“We weathered their storm in the beginning and came out with a nice run to put us up by 11,” Derwin said. “I stressed at halftime that we haven’t won this game; you weathered a storm but another one’s coming. We knew they were going to be relentless the way that they came and played us.”
Watervliet used their lockdown defense to force 13 Johnstown turnovers in the third quarter. After Barnholt floated one in off of a dribble drive to put Johnstown up 29-16, the Lady Cannoneers used extra possessions to find their stroke from the field. Kornelia Sziller found the bottom of the net twice from distance to sandwich a two-point-jumper by Clickner. The 8-0 run brought Watervliet within five before Cerasuolo answered with a three of her own.
Johnstown gave the ball away 17 times in the second half to Watervliet’s five, but the Lady Bills countered their sloppy ball handling with a tenacious effort on the boards. Johnstown out-rebounded the Lady Cannoneers 44-15, led by Stock who pulled down 14. Megan Anagnostopulos, Brianne O’Rourke, and Barnholt each grabbed at least five boards.
While the fourth quarter saw Johnstown grinding down the clock, the Lady Cannoneers slowly but surely ground themselves back into the game. Down by 10 after Johnstown scored the first four points of the frame, Watervliet went on an 8-1 run to make it a one possession game. With less than two minutes left in regulation, Clickner sank a three to knot the score.
“We make runs but we give up runs,” Derwin said. “Once you get into the third and fourth quarter and the team makes a run at us, we seem to be able to answer. We don’t want to go away and that just shows maturity.”
Cerasuolo answered Clickner’s three by driving into the lane and hitting a jumper on Johnstown’s next trip down the court. Watervliet turned the ball over just twice in the fourth but the second giveaway proved costly. The Lady Cannoneers were called for a 5-second violation with 20 seconds remaining that gave possession back to the Lady Bills. Stock went four of four from the charity stripe in the final half-minute to neutralize a late three by Dockstader and send Johnstown to the finals.
Nellis finished with nine points off the bench for Johnstown to finish behind Cerasuolo’s 25. Sziller, Clickner, and Teagan Clough all finished with double-digit points for the Lady Cannoneers.
Johnstown is familiar with its title-game opponent as the Lady Bengals of Tamarac are the only Class B team to hand the Lady Bills a loss this season. Tamarac led by 18 points at halftime before defeating Johnstown 61-52 on Dec. 28 at the Amsterdam Holiday College Showcase.
“We’re going to prepare for a different team,” Derwin said. “They don’t bring that kind of pressure defense but they have a couple very skilled offensive players and we’ve got to come up with a defensive game plan.”
Johnstown (15-6 overall) will lay it all on the line with a Class B title at stake on Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College. Tipoff is slated for 1:45 p.m.
Johnstown 49, Watervliet 46
Johnstown7 20 9 13 – 49
Watervliet11 5 14 16 – 46
Cerasuolo 8-6-25, Nellis 4-1-9, Stock 1-4-6, Barnholt 2-0-5, McCoy 1-0-2, O’Rourke 1-0-2. Totals 17-11-49.
Sziller 4-2-12, Clough 4-3-11, Clickner 4-0-10, Dockstader 2-2-8, Dugan 2-0-5. Totals 16-7-46.
3-point goals: Johnstown 4 (Cerasuolo 3, Barnholt); Watervliet 7 (Sziller 2, Dockstader 2, Clickner 2, Dugan)