ALBANY – Herbert Lehman stared straight at a juggernaut and never blinked.
The Lions girls’ basketball team competed for start to finish with upstate power Jamesville-DeWitt in a 69-44 loss in the state Federation Class A girls’ basketball semifinals at the Times Union Center on March 19.
“We put our heart into the game,” senior forward Paulina Afriyie said.
The Red Rams of Section 3 have wins over CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens runner up Bishop Loughlin and Archdiocesan champion Monsignor Scanlan. They beat Floral Park in its NYSPHSAA final 82-37 just a week earlier, but Lehman provided a much stiffer test. There were still tears and still an empty feeling that the team couldn’t have player better.
“They kept playing hard at the end, which I was proud of,” Lehman coach Joseph Yarusso said. “I did hear that they basically are a AA team.”
Charlotte Leurs scored a team-high 22 points for Lehman and her frontcourt mate Afriyie chipped in 16. Julia Kelner paced Jamesville-DeWitt with 16 points. Carly O’Hern and Jamie Boeheim, daughter of Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim added 13 points each.
The Lions (25-5) lead 7-6 early after a 3-pointer by Miaya Givens Young early in the first quarter. They trailed just 19-9 after a quarter when a put back by Jamesville-DeWitt’s Angela Bussone fell through at the buzzer.
Lehman went way from the inside attack that got it to Albany in the second quarter. It settled for three-pointers and shot 1-for-17 from behind the arc for the game. Jamesville-Dewitt (26-2) went on a 19-2 run over the second and third quarters to grab a 40-17 lead with 5:47 to play in the third.
“We are not a three-ball team,” Yarusso said. “We are down low, push the ball. I also said to my girls we can’t trade threes for twos. That won’t work.”
The Lions left upset with some lazy passes and turnovers that cost them. Still it kept fighting, but Jamesville-DeWitt continued to answer. A three from O’Hern ended any chance of a third quarter rally.
“Every time we caught up they made a three or got offensive rebounds,” Afriyie said. “We had to keep pushing.”
It wasn’t the end the Lions wanted a season that included the school’s first city title and an upset of top-seeded Bayside in the final. The team showed solidarity in Albany, all wearing matching Orange headbands they got in the morning from Yarusso and orange and blue socks. It was part of a memorable to trip to end a memorable year.
“It was [a] great [year],” Afriyie said. “Winning the chip.”