TROY — After three straight trips to the Class D final of the Section II Girls Basketball Tournament, Argyle was not about to be denied Saturday.
The Scots’ only thought was to finish the journey.
“Over here on the sidelines we were like ‘Guys, we have to want it, it’s all or nothing at this point, literally — you get it, you win, you don’t, you go home,’” senior guard Danielle Sill said. “We’re not ready to be done, we want to keep going.”
Led by Sam Humiston’s dominant 27-point performance in the paint, Argyle captured its first Section II championship since 2012 with a 49-40 victory over Adirondack League rival Hartford at Hudson Valley Community College.
“I can’t even explain what I’m feeling,” Humiston said. “We’ve been here three times, it’s crazy that we finally got the championship. It’s amazing.
“As soon as we went out there for the fourth quarter, we were like ‘We want this, we want this, we earned this No. 1 seed’ and we earned this championship,” she added.
Argyle (19-4) advances to next Saturday’s state quarterfinal against Section VII champion Moriah, set for noon at Plattsburgh State.
Humiston and Sill were also key players on Argyle’s Section II volleyball championship team in the fall. How much of that winning drive carried over to the winter season?
“Probably a lot of it, just being able to work together,” said Sill, who had five steals Saturday. “We’re just a family — we know each other really well and we just make it work.”
Argyle seniors Humiston, Sill, Eve Carmody, Emily Tucker and Grace Lohret had played on all three of the Scots’ basketball finalist teams, losing to Fort Edward and North Warren the last two years.
“They really wanted it, these seniors,” Scots coach Terry Chamberlain said. “It’s a thrill just to get down here and play on this court. I think the seniors didn’t just want to get here, they wanted to win it, they were very confident in their abilities and they led us. I’m extremely proud of them and happy for them.”
“They made some big plays when they needed to, and some of that is probably experience,” said Hartford coach Wendy Harrington, whose team finished 14-9. “They were able to stay just a little bit more poised and calmer in those moments.”
Argyle beat Hartford at its own game — winning the rebounding battle and scoring in transition. Defensively, the Scots held all of the Tanagers’ scorers to seven points or fewer.
“I still thought we could’ve done better (on defense) at times, but we did enough to win,” Chamberlain said. “We hustled, we wanted it and we took the game.”
Offensively, the key was Humiston, who battled inside against a trio of 6-foot Tanagers — Alondra Nims, Karlee Nims and Abby Monroe — and came away with eight buckets and an 11-for-13 effort at the foul line. Officially, Humiston was credited with six rebounds, but probably had several more.
“She’s been playing phenomenal all season long, but as of late she’s really stepping up in the paint for us,” Chamberlain said. “Even though they have a lot of height, we wanted to pound the ball inside to her — hopefully she gets double-teamed and it opens up the perimeter for us, so it was definitely a goal to get the ball to her early on.”
“She got our bigs in foul trouble a little bit,” said Hartford senior Cailyn Harrington, who scored a team-high seven points, “so we were just trying to rotate them on and off of her to see if we could get her out of her rhythm, but she played really well and she dominated the boards for them.”
Humiston scored 10 of the Scots’ 13 first-quarter points as they opened the early lead. Hartford chipped back and pulled into a 19-19 tie early in the third.
That was the closest the Tanagers ever got to the lead, as Argyle outscored them 18-9 the rest of the period to enter the fourth quarter leading 37-28.
“We were still hanging in there, but they had that one quick spurt in the third,” Wendy Harrington said. “We were unable to secure some rebounds, they got two or three opportunities in a row that they converted, they had a steal and converted, and we got a couple of quick not-great fouls.”
Hartford was in foul trouble in the fourth quarter — four players with four fouls each — which changed some matchups and opened some opportunities for other Argyle players. Carmody and Hailee Liddle each scored seven points.
In the fourth quarter, the Tanagers pulled within 42-38 when eighth-grader Gabby McFarren buried a 3-pointer with 4:06 left. A pair of Alondra Nims foul shots kept the Tanagers within 44-40.
However, those were the last points Hartford scored, as the Scots’ defense sealed the win, forcing three missed shots and three turnovers by Hartford down the stretch.
“We had a few too many turnovers and (were) unable to get off quite the number of shots that we wanted to against them,” Wendy Harrington said. “But give them credit, they played great defense and Sam really had the best game she’s played against us this year.”
“I think we really earned it this year,” Sill said. “We have a lot of heart, and we’re a team that’s been together since we were in youth commission, so we know each other really well and we just know how to play together.”