TROY — Kyra Pence had only attempted one other 3-pointer, but with the game on the line, she stepped into one like a knockdown shooter.

Randolph’s captain guard sank an enormous triple from the top of the key Saturday afternoon, giving her team just enough room to catch its breath with a 42-36 lead and under three minutes to play in a NYSPHSAA Class C girls basketball semifinal against Union Springs.

Pence, a senior, scored five points in the fourth quarter and eighth grader Skylar Herington scored six in the fourth to help Randolph hold on to a 45-40 victory, earning a spot in Sunday’s state championship game against defending state champion Millbrook (Section 9, 22-3).

Payton Morrison led Randolph with 15 points, all in the first half, on four 3-pointers. The Cardinals led 26-19 at halftime before the Wolves rallied to briefly take their first lead late in the third.

“I'm so confident in these girls. They're just ... they're gamers,” Randolph coach David Pihlblad said. They stay level-headed, they stay composed and I have the utmost confidence in all of them. Somebody's going to be open and somebody's going to hit that shot in crunch time. They've been true to it so far.”

Herington finished with 13 points (eight in the second half), six rebounds and six assists.

Kyra Pence scored nine points with six steals and Quinn Pence had six points, seven rebounds and three steals.

Before hitting her crucial fourth-quarter trey, Kyra Pence had endured an off night, missing multiple layups. But she shook off that slump when it mattered most.

“I was missing so many layups that game and I got in my head,” she said. “I knew I needed to step up at something, I look up at the shot clock and it was six seconds, I was like well, maybe this is my time I've got to do something on offense. And it went in and that was totally a momentum changer in that game, I'm glad I shot that.”

Of the senior, Pihlblad noted, “She's incredible. The playoff stretch, it seems like end of quarters, end of games, she's hitting that big shot. Kind of the unexpected shot that teams gameplan, she's not a great 3-point shooter and she hasn't hit that many this year, but when she has it's in those big moments. It's just a really cool senior moment to step up with that.”

Payton Gilbert and Kailey Kalet scored 12 each for Union Springs, the Section 4 champions who ended their season at 25-1.

Pihlblad twice returned to the word “unbelievable” to describe Herington’s shot-making, including a dazzling fourth-quarter turnaround jumper along the baseline.

“There were a couple times she's going to do this move and hit that little floater ... eighth graders don't do that stuff,” he said. And they don't do that stuff in the state championship semifinal game. She's special. She is unbelievable. They had a Division I girl, full ride, and Skylar's an eighth grader. She hit the shots. It's unbelievable.”

Morrison’s hot-shooting first half gave the Cardinals an early spark. Pihlblad called the sophomore “a gamer.”

“You could tell this morning she was ready to go,” he said. “Her demeanor, she wanted this bad. As the season's gone on, she's had some adversity, injuries at the beginning of the year and the last, I would say, three weeks she's played like we expected her to play all year.”

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Randolph extended its season by one more day, playing Sunday for a state title at 11:45 a.m. back at Hudson Valley Community College. Randolph last made the state championship game in 2012, a loss to Hoosic Valley.

“It's unreal,” Pihlblad said. “We've talked about this moment with the girls since day one and I think a lot of teams talk about this. It's a dream that everybody's hoping to get to. It's incredible. Our girls played so unbelievably hard today for 32 minutes. Our defense has been our staple for three years since I took over the program and that was probably the best defensive game we've had all three years and we needed every second of it. Union Springs is a fantastic program and our girls just stepped up, executed the gameplan and hit some big shots down the stretch when we needed them.”

Randolph made waves this postseason with its offense as Morrison and Herington set the school record for 3-pointers in a game in successive contests. But it was the Cardinal’s defense that carried the day on Saturday, including limiting a Division I recruit point guard, Kailey Kalet (Loyola Maryland), to 12 points and one assist.

“Our defense, we got our stops on defense,” Kyra Pence said of the key to the win. “We preached the defense every day in practice, days off, we're always talking about our defense. And the stops on defense led to the offense and that's how we made up for being down.”

Pence made one of the game’s biggest defensive plays as well, cutting off a Union Springs pass with a deflection to Morrison for a crucial steal as Randolph protected a three-point lead with under 30 seconds to play.

“I love defense, it's my passion,” Pence said. “I get the deflections all the time being up top, me and Payton work phenomenal together. So we always push them to that side and when they went to pass it back I got the deflection and Payton was right there and stole the ball.”


Randolph (45)

K. Pence 3 2-4 9, Q. Pence 2 1-2 6, Smith 1 0-0 2, Morrison 5 1-2 15, Herington 3 6-8 13. Totals: 14 10-16 45.

Union Springs (40)

Casler 1 0-0 2, K. Kalet 5 2-4 12, M. Kalet 1 0-2 3, Gilbert 4 4-7 12, Johnson 3 0-0 9, Evener 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 6-13 40.

Randolph 14 26 33 45

Union Springs 8 19 32 40

Three-point goals: Randolph 7 (Morrison 4, Herington, K. Pence, Q. Pence), Union Springs 2 (M. Kalet, Johnson). Total fouls: Randolph 17, Union Springs 19. Fouled out: Johnson (US).


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