JAMESTOWN — Last Thursday, Payton Morrison set a Randolph girls basketball record with nine 3-pointers in a Section 6 Class C quarterfinal win over JFK.
Her reign atop the record book lasted all of a week, thanks to eighth-grade teammate Skylar Herington.
Herington proved up to the task of performing under the bright lights at Jamestown Community College on Thursday night, catching fire in the top-seeded Cardinals’ semifinal against No. 5 Portville. Herington made 10 triples in a career-high 34-point lights-out performance to spark a 58-38 victory.
Recalling last March, when Herington struggled in a sectional final against Frewsburg, Randolph coach David Pihlblad spoke glowingly of the eighth-grader’s improvement and confidence in her return to the JCC stage.
“That was pretty incredible,” Pihlblad said. “Last year, as a seventh-grader, she went 0-for-12 (against Frewsburg) and the whole offseason that’s just been motivation. And she was just ready to go tonight. You could see from the start ... she has no fear. And a lot of younger girls, a lot of younger athletes, this big stage, lots of people (they would), and she just played incredible. We rode her coattails from the beginning. She started that game off for us and we just kind of went from there.”
Randolph (18-4) will face No. 3 Wilson in Saturday’s Class C championship back at JCC (2 o’clock).
ALSO FOR Randolph, Kyra Pence scored 14 points with seven rebounds, seven steals and six assists. Quin Pence had six boards, five steals and four assists. Herington also swiped five steals.
Herington’s performance impressed Portville coach Inga Welty, but the Panthers’ boss knew she was a special player early on this year.
“I’ve been telling the girls all year that Kyra is their energizer bunny, the one that keeps them going, does her job very, very well, but I believed since the beginning of the season that the eighth-grader was their best overall player,” Welty said. “And she pretty much proved it today. I didn’t feel like ... there were a couple times we left her open, but her step-back, I mean she was crushing it. She had a phenomenal game. And if she wanted to prove to anybody that she’s legit, she pretty much did it today. I was impressed.”
JACKIE Scanlon led the Panthers (17-3) with 14 points on all three of her team’s 3-pointers for the night. Ava Haynes added 13 points and six steals. Teagan Kosinski had six rebounds and three assists.
Randolph held Portville’s leading scorer, center Lilly Bentley, to seven points with her team-best nine rebounds.
Randolph got Portville out of its typical rhythm by pressing hard and forcing numerous turnovers and fast-break opportunities, all of which prevented Bentley from seeing the ball very often. Portville fell behind 36-13 at halftime, outscored 21-6 in the second quarter. Portville narrowly outscored Randolph in the next two quarters, 15-14 and 10-8, but the damage was already done.
“I knew we were going to struggle with their press and their pressure,” Welty said. “Their guards are aggressive and fast and quick (and) skilled. We practiced it but you can’t practice against that kind of speed and skill and athleticism. I hoped that we would handle the pressure better but we were ready, we expected it.
“By the end of the game too, I think Lilly was tired and we weren’t getting angles on passes to her. Once again the pressure from the guards, because they extend out no matter what defense they’re in. They extend out and my kids just weren’t ready for that.”
Pihlblad confirmed keeping the ball from Bentley was the Cardinals’ focus.
“Lilly’s really good,” he said. “She’s probably one of the best posts around and our focus was (to) make sure she doesn’t get the ball and we said put the pressure on their guards, put the pressure up front so they can’t even get to her and we executed that really well tonight.”
WELTY acknowledged the prospect of facing Herington in sectionals over the next four years is a scary thought, but she’s excited to see the eighth-grader develop.
“It is (scary), but at the same time, at one point when she hit one, I clapped for her,” Welty said. “To me that’s impressive. I think at one point my bookkeeper said she was 9-for-11 from 3s. She was calm, cool and collected. I look forward to seeing her future ... not against us, of course.”
Herington impressed her teammates as well, including Morrison.
“That was pretty incredible,” Morrison said. “I’ve never seen anything like that, especially from an eighth-grader, and she’s a really special player.”
Of losing her school record, however, Morrison said, “Oh I’m gunning for it,” with a big smile. “But she deserved it.”
Portville graduates two seniors, including its captain point guard Kosinski along with forward Alisha Dickerson, while the rest of the Panthers’ rotation is set to return next year. After graduating Welty’s youngest daughters Mallory and Mia from last year’s sectional championship team, the Panthers stayed afloat and got back to the semifinals in a 17-win season.
“I had some returners back and some that were the first one off the bench last season,” Welty said. “But losing Mia and Mallory and just their knowledge of the game, that part of it, not even necessarily what they do statistically, it was more about understanding the game. These kids were lacking that. But they really stepped in and did a great job. We exceeded expectations in my opinion.”
AT JAMESTOWN Portville (38)
Kosinski 0 0-2 0, DeFazio 2 0-0 4, Haynes 6 1-4 13, Scanlon 5 1-3 14, Bentley 3 1-4 7. Totals: 18 3-11 38.
K. Pence 5 2-4 14, Q. Pence 0 0-2 0, Steward 1 0-0 2, Morrison 3 0-0 8, Herington 12 0-2 34. Totals: 21 2-8 58. Portville 7 13 28 38 Randolph 15 36 50 58
Three-point goals: Portville 3 (Scanlon 3); Randolph 14 (Herington 10, Morrison 2, K. Pence 2). Total fouls: Portville 12, Randolph 15. Fouled out: Haynes (P).