Sherman Girls Are Headed To States
HENRIETTA – Sherman’s Paige Gratto was an offensive star Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats shined as a team defensively.
Together, they are heading east next weekend.
Gratto scored 24 points and Sherman held Batavia-Notre Dame to just 5 second-half points en route to a 35-29 Class D Far West Regional victory at Rush-Henrietta High School.
“Our motto is ‘defense wins games,’ senior captain Jenna Fisher said. “Offense is always on or off, but there’s always defense.”
The win sends the Wildcats to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four set for Friday and Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.
“Us, as a unit, expected to be here. I don’t think many other people did,” Sherman head coach Emily Eckwahl said. “The way these girls work and how much they care about each other and work for each other, they had no doubt in their mind that this was where they wanted to be.”
After winning a Section VI championship, but not being able to advance any further last season due to COVID-19, the girls from Sherman have achieved a goal more than 12 months in the making.
Notre Dame jumped out to an 8-2 lead early Saturday and led 15-14 after one quarter, but the Wildcats hung around, largely due to Gratto. The junior hit three 3-pointers in the opening eight minutes, including one at the buzzer that kept it a one-point game.
“We watched the film and saw them always sitting back in the 2-3,” Gratto said. “We planned for me and Hayden Fisher to shoot it.”
Fisher picked up her third foul with 29 seconds remaining in the first quarter and remained on the bench for the entirety of the second quarter.
“All the prep we do, the only thing we say can’t happen is early foul trouble,” Eckwahl said. “It’s just part of the game. Thankfully we had two girls who came in off the bench and stepped up big to fill two senior starters’ shoes.”
Again, Sherman hung around because of Gratto. She scored all 8 of her team’s points in the second quarter, including a pair of second-chance opportunities late. Notre Dame led 24-22 at halftime.
“I needed to step up, Hayden (Fisher) needed to step up, especially when Jenna got into foul trouble,” Gratto said. “Tayden Persons needed to step up once Kaitlyn (Lindsey) got into foul trouble. I feel like we pulled together when our seniors got into foul trouble.”
Gratto hit two more 3-pointers in the third quarter to provide almost all of the Wildcats’ offense, but it was the team’s defense that was the story.
“We were building each other up in the locker room,” Fisher said. “We came out and flipped the switch.”
Sherman outscored the Fighting Irish 8-0 in the quarter as the Section V champions went 0 for 5 from the field and turned the ball over eight times.
“We knew we hadn’t reached our potential offensively or defensively,” Eckwahl said. ” … We thought we were in pretty good shape and that would catch up with them in the fourth quarter.”
Despite both teams continuing to struggle in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame pulled within a point thanks to a 3-pointer from senior Judah MacDonald and another bucket from senior Lindsey Weidman.
But Wildcats junior Hayden Fisher gave her team a three-point lead when she nailed a long jumper with 3:05 remaining.
“I didn’t want to come out and put that pressure on our shooters, but they’re smart enough players to know … it was their chance to step up,” Eckwahl said. “Thankfully, they did.”
The Fighting Irish turned the ball over on their final four possession and Jenna Fisher sealed the win with three free throws after Sherman went just 3 for 16 from the charity stripe prior to its final two possessions.
“I was thinking ‘make this, make this, make this,'” Fisher said.
“It was her redemption story,” Eckwahl said of Fisher, who went 1 for 6 at the free throw line in a sectional semifinal against Panama. “She buckled down, worked really hard on it this week, stepped to the line with some senior confidence and after the game told me ‘I told you I would make them when it counted.'”
Now the Wildcats will take on Section IV champion Franklin at 6:15 p.m. Friday in Troy. The Purple Devils beat Section XI champion Smithtown Christian 61-15 on Friday.
“It’s unreal. Last year it just stopped so I didn’t really know what we could do,” Fisher said. “I’m so grateful we get to go on.”
NOTES: Gratto had nine rebounds; junior Leighanne Swan had eight rebounds and four steals; senior Kaitlyn Lindsey grabbed six rebounds; and Jenna Fisher had four steals. … Sherman finished 11 of 50 (22%) from the field, including 7 of 22 (31.8%) from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 13 times. … Notre Dame was 11 of 34 (32.3%) from the field, including 3 of 10 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 21 times. … Section III champion Copenhagen has qualified for the other semifinal next Friday in Troy. Section II Hartford and Section VII Boquet Valley will play for the final spot Sunday.
JFisher 1 3 6, Persons 0 0 0, PGratto 8 2 24, TGratto 0 0 0, Swan 0 0 0, HFisher 1 1 3, Lindsey 1 0 2. Totals 11 6 35
BATAVIA-NOTRE DAME (29)
Sisson 1 3 5, Tomidy 4 0 8, Green 1 0 3, Bartz 0 0 0, MacDonald 3 1 9, Weidman 2 0 4. Totals 11 4 29.
3-point goals–JFisher, PGratto 6, Green, MacDonald 2.
Sherman 14 8 8 5 — 35
Batavia-Notre Dame 15 9 0 5 — 29