Playing in the Mid-State Athletic Conference championship game for the first time in program history, the Tompkins Cortland Community College women's basketball team came painstakingly close to winning the title. The Panthers took top-seed Finger Lakes Community College to the wire before falling 64-61 Saturday. The Panthers finish as MSAC runner-up, the team's best ever conference finish.
The Panthers came out strong, using a 10-2 run to close out the first quarter with a 20-12 lead. Four different Panthers scored during the run, capped by a three-pointer from MacKenzie Kenyon(Ovid/South Seneca H.S.). Three quick points from Jaida Washington (Elmira/Elmira H.S.) pushed the lead to 23-12 as the second quarter got underway, but the Lakers answered with a 26-5 run to take a 10-point lead late in the second. Late baskets by Aber Whitehead (Deposit/Deposit H.S.) and Washington helped cut the deficit to eight at the half, 40-32.
The third quarter saw Finger Lakes outscore the Panthers 16-14, giving the Lakers a 56-46 lead heading into the final quarter. The fourth started with the Panthers scoring the first 11 points, taking the lead on a layup by Washington with 4:10 left on the clock. Finger Lakes scored their first points of the quarter with 3:39 left, regaining the lead at 58-57. Neither team could score over the next 100 seconds before Finger Lakes scored to make it 60-57 with 1:55 left. Washington answered with a bucket to make it 60-59 with 1:35 left. After a defensive stop, the Panthers looked to regain the lead as the clock went under a minute left, but a three-point attempt by Washington rimmed out. Shelby Koch (Auburn/Union Springs H.S.) fought hard for the rebound, but her put-back attempt wouldn't fall. Finger Lakes got the rebound and scored on their next possession, making it 62-59 with 35 seconds left. Tatiana Minnick (Ithaca/Ithaca H.S.) made it a one-point game with 14.7 seconds left, but Finger Lakes went 2-for-2 at the free throw line, making the spread 64-61 with 6.1 seconds left. A final three-point attempt came up short, giving the Lakers the win and the title.
After connecting on 57% of their shots from the floor in the first quarter, the Panthers cooled down, finishing the game 23-of-68. Washington was the leading scorer with 22 points, also pulling down a Tompkins Cortland playoff-record 20 rebounds. Taylor Day (Brooktondale/Ithaca H.S.) had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds, a new career high in rebounds for the freshman. Kenyon finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds and Minnick added 9 points, 4 rebounds, and a team-best 4 assists.
The Panthers now turn their focus to the NJCAA Region III tournament. The Panthers are seeded 5th in the tournament and will open at #4-seed Onondaga Community College Tuesday at 5 p.m. It will be the fourth time the Panthers and Lazers have met this season, with the most recent coming in the MSAC semifinals Friday. That game was won by Tompkins Cortland, 57-46.