ONEONTA — After falling behind in the third quarter, Southern Cayuga focused on the first couple minutes of the fourth.
The Chiefs surged ahead with a six-point run and Catie Kopp hit a pair of key 3-pointers to add to the lead, as the second-seeded Southern Cayuga girls basketball team beat No. 3 South Kortright, 46-36, in the Section IV, Class D semifinals at SUNY Oneonta Wednesday.
Southern Cayuga plays either No. 1 Delaware Academy or No. 4 Stamford in the finals at SUNY Oneonta Saturday. It's the Chiefs' first appearance in the section finals since 2014.
“We said coming out of halftime that the first two minutes of the third quarter were going to determine the game. I don’t think we had the push at the beginning of the third quarter that we needed, so we said that again at the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Kopp said. “I think our mindset changed realizing we were down and we needed to come back.”
Eleven of Kopp’s 13 points came in the fourth quarter. The junior finished with 11 rebounds, six steals and five assists.
“I was a little bit more open and they weren’t as tight on me in the second half,” Kopp said. “That made it a little easier.”
Southern Cayuga junior Lauren Sherman added eight points, three rebounds, two steals and two assists. Brooke Walter had a team-high 15 points to go along with two assists.
“You don’t need to score points to be a huge contributor,” Southern Cayuga coach Ed Heslop said. “When (Kopp) wasn’t getting points, they were box and one or triangle and two on her and Sherman. They were really going after our two high scorers, and some of the other girls picked up and scored instead. Catie and Sherm gave the ball away to other girls and picked up some nice assists. That’s what you need to do as a team to be able to get to the next game.”
Both offenses heated up after a slow start in the first quarter. Sherman beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer to five the Chiefs a 12-9 lead after the first eight minutes.
Southern Cayuga continued to build on its lead throughout the second, with Sherman hitting another three in the final minute to give the Chiefs a 22-15 lead at halftime.
“Threes always give us momentum,” Sherman said. “Especially at the end of the quarter going into halftime. … That gave us the extra little push we need.”
The Rams had a 10-point run and outscored the Chiefs 14-5 in the third quarter. Down 29-27 heading into the final frame, Southern Cayuga refocused and regrouped.
“We realized we needed to come together and work,” Sherman said. “We know what we’re capable of, and in the third quarter we kind of lost track of what we were doing and got sloppy. We had to regroup and go back to what we were doing before.”
The Chiefs scored the first six points to take a 33-29 lead within the first two minutes of the fourth. Kopp hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Southern Cayuga some breathing room, and the Chiefs converted on their free throws when the Rams put them to the line late in the game.
Southern Cayuga outscored South Kortright 19-7 in the final eight minutes.
“We came out and our game plan was pretty much where it needed to be,” Heslop said. “We understood what they were going to do and we were able to execute against it. The girls did what we tried to do and we came out on top.”
Now the Chiefs are focusing on their next trip to Oneonta for the section finals.
“When we got on the bus … we just felt good,” Heslop said. “We were playing well. We’re playing as a team. We had two good days of practices. We felt that if we came and executed, we had a really good shot to be playing again.”