Randolph Girls Advance To State Final

Randolph head coach David Pihlblad jumps in the air while the rest of the Cardinals celebrate as the clock hits 0.0 on their NYSPHSAA Class C semifinal win over Union Springs on Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College's McDonough Sports Complex in Troy. Photo by Mike Frame

TROY – Randolph can play offense with the best of teams.

On Saturday, the Cardinals clinched a spot in the state title game with their defense.

The Section VI champions turned Section IV’s Union Springs over 22 times and held the Wolves to 16-of-40 shooting from the field en route to a 45-40 victory in a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C semifinal at Hudson Valley Community College’s McDonough Sports Complex.

“Our defense has been our staple for three years since I took over the program,” Randolph head coach David Pihlblad said. “That was probably the best defensive game we’ve had all three years.”

The win sends Randolph into Sunday’s 11:45 a.m. title game against Section IX’s Millbrook, which beat Section II’s Greenwich 70-52 in Saturday’s second semifinal.

Randolph's Payton Morrison shoots a 3-pointer over a Union Springs defender during their NYSPHSAA Class C semifinal Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College's McDonough Sports Complex. Photo by Mike Frame

“Millbrook is the defending state champion. They have some size. They have good guards,” Pihlblad said. ” … We’re going to watch film … probably not going to sleep at all … put together a game plan and be ready to go in the morning.”

The Cardinals led by a point midway through the fourth quarter when eighth-grader Skylar Herington drove along the baseline and made a turnaround shot to give her team a 37-34 lead.

“She’s an eighth-grader. It’s unbelievable,” Pihlblad said. “There were a couple of times … the spin move and that little floater … eighth-graders don’t do that stuff, and they don’t that stuff in the state championship semifinal game. She’s special.”

After Herington made a free throw on each of Randolph’s next two possessions, Payton Gilbert pulled Union Springs within three on a bucket in the lane.

Cardinals senior Kyra Pence then hit the biggest shot of her career. With the shot clock winding down, Pence lined up a 3-pointer from the top of the arc that found nothing but net and gave Randolph a 42-36 advantage.

Randolph's Quinn Pence (1) and Zoelle Dickerson (24) fight a Union Springs player for a rebound during their NYSPHSAA Class C semifinal Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College's McDonough Sports Complex. Photo by Mike Frame

“She’s incredible,” Pihlblad said. “This playoff stretch, it seems like end of quarters, end of games, she’s hitting that big shot.”

“I was missing so many layups. I got in my head. I knew I needed to step up,” Pence added. “I looked up at the shot clock and it was at 6 seconds. I thought ‘Maybe this is my time. I have to do something on offense.’ It went in. That was totally a momentum changer. I’m glad I shot it.”

A bucket from Union Springs senior point guard Kailey Kalet – who has a full scholarship at NCAA Division I Loyola (Md.) waiting for her in the fall – pulled the Wolves within three with 1:04 left, but Pence deflected a ball to Morrison for a steal on Union Springs’ next trip down the floor before Pence made it a four-point game with a free throw.

“I love defense. It’s my passion. I get deflections all the time,” Pence said. “Up top, Payton (Morrison) and I work phenomenally together. We always push them to that side. When they went to pass it back, I got the deflection and Payton was right there.”

A missed 3-pointer on the Wolves’ final possession ended up in Pence’s arms before she capped the victory with one final free throw.

Randolph's Quinnr Pence dribbles while being defended by a Union Springs player during their NYSPHSAA Class C semifinal Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College's McDonough Sports Complex in Troy. Photo by Mike Frame

“We got our stops on defense,” Pence said. “We preach defense every day.”

The Cardinals took a 5-4 lead early in the first quarter and maintained a 26-19 halftime advantage, thanks in part to Morrison’s 15 first-half points.

“You could tell this morning she was ready to go. … She wanted it bad,” Pihlblad said of Morrison. ” … The last three weeks, she’s played like we’ve expected her to play.”

Randolph led for most of the third quarter before Kalet converted a three-point play with 49 seconds left in the period to give the Wolves a 32-31 lead.

“She’s built, she can drive,” Pence said of Kalet. “She’s a phenomenal point guard. She can shoot, pull up, get to the rim. … She’s a great player, but we played better on defense and got the stops.”

Herington made a pair of free throws 11 seconds later as the Cardinals took a one-point lead into the final eight minutes.

“I’m so confident in these girls. They are gamers. They stay level-headed. They stay composed,” Pihlblad said. “I have the utmost confidence in all of them. Somebody is going to be open and somebody is going to hit that shot in crunch time. They’ve been true to it so far this year.”

Gilbert gave the lead back to Union Springs on the first possession of the fourth quarter before Herington gave it back to the Cardinals with 4:58 remaining.

They would never trail again.

“It’s unreal. We’ve talked about this moment with the girls since day one,” Pihlblad said. ” … It’s a dream that everybody is hoping to get to.”

NOTES: Randolph shot 14 of 46 (30.4%) from the field, including 7 of 23 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 18 times. Morrison finished with 15 points and three rebounds; Herington had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists; and Pence had 9 points and six steals. … Union Springs shot 2 of 12 from 3-point range. Kalet had 12 points and four rebounds; Gilbert had 12 points and five rebounds; and Ella Johnson had 9 points and three assists.


KPence 3 2 9, QPence 2 1 6, Storer 1 0 2, Morrison 5 1 15, Herington 3 6 13, Dickerson 0 0 0, Steward 0 0 0. Totals 14 10 45.


Gilbert 4 4 12, Johnson 4 0 9, KKalet 5 2 12, Waldron 0 0 0, MKalet 1 0 3, Casler 1 0 2, Daum 0 0 0, Evener 1 0 2, Scholz 0 0 0, Jones 0 0 0. Totals 16 6 40.

3-point goals-KPence, QPence, Morrison 4, Herington, Johnson, MKalet.

Randolph 14 12 7 12 – 45

Union Springs 8 11 13 8 – 40


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