The final basketball season in Nazareth Academy’s history simply refuses to end.
Nazareth has reached the state semifinal round, thanks to a 55-36 win over Olean in state Class B quarterfinal play on March 12. The Lasers, with a record of 17-6, will play their next game Friday, March 19, at 10 a.m. against Irvington of Section 1, a Westchester County school. The winner advances to the state title contest Saturday, March 20, at 4 p.m. Both games are at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.
Should the Lasers claim the state crown, it would be the team’s second straight state championships; they won the state Class C title last year.
Nazareth was led by an opportunistic defense that produced 18 steals against Olean of Section 6. Harley Cleary led the way with 16 points as the Lasers took control early, moving out to a 35-16 halftime lead. Teammates Julia Crilly and Emily Kelly finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Nazareth had earned a berth in the quarterfinals with a 43-29 victory over Wayland-Cohocton in state Class B qualifier action on March 9. Cleary scored 12 points, and Crilly and Janine Swanson added 10 each in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated. The fourth quarter began in a 26-26 tie, but Nazareth held a 17-3 scoring edge the rest of the way.
Prior to state play, Nazareth earned its ninth Section 5 title in the last 12 years by besting third-seeded Wellsville, 60-50, in the Class B final on March 5. The top-seeded Lasers won in convincing fashion, leading 20-9, 33-20 and 48-30 at the quarter breaks. Cleary (18 points), Crilly (15) and Swanson (11) were the top Nazareth scorers.
In earlier sectional games, Nazareth won 54-31 over No. 8 Marcus Whitman on Feb. 27 behind 18 points from Cleary, 11 from Swanson and 10 from Kelly. That was followed by a 67-45 victory over No. 4 Dansville on March 2 thanks to 17 points from Crilly and 16 from Cleary.
This marks the final year for the Laser athletic program, which will cease to exist this June due to the merger of Nazareth Academy and Aquinas Institute beginning in the 2010-11 school year.