BUFFALO — An absolute thriller fit for the newly minted Buffalo State University. Trailing by as many as 16 points during the first half of Saturday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C Far West Regional, the Pavilion girls battled, only to fall short against a red-hot Randolph team, 42-40, in one of the most exciting postseason high school basketball games you’ll ever watch.
Trailing 25-9 during the second quarter and remaining in a deep hole entering the halftime break, Pavilion mounted a ferocious comeback, powered by its dynamic senior duo, Karlee Zinkievich and Lauren Kingsley, whose efforts have propelled the Golden Gophers to incredible success over the past half-decade. On Saturday, Kingsley and Zinkievich were at their best, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
“It was a great game that we came up a little short,” said Pavilion head coach Ben Schwenebraten. “The girls played great in the second half, outscoring a very good Randolph team. We had the ball at the end of the game with a chance to go to the final four. You can’t ask for much more than that in a Regional qualifier.”
Trailing 25-13 entering the intermission, Kingsley had carried Pavilion through a slog of a first-half effort, scoring all but one of the Golden Gophers’ points over the first two quarters, while Zinkievich had yet to awaken as she was held scoreless through 16 minutes of basketball.
Three different players knocked down 3-pointers for Randolph in the early going, including two apiece from Payton Morrison and Quinn Pence.
However, facing a 12-point deficit to begin the third quarter, Zinkievich started heating up, and in a big way, which helped turn the tide for the Golden Gophers.
The senior guard scored all of her 15 points during the second half, helping thrust her team back from a 14-point first-half deficit. With 10 seconds remaining in the third, Kylie Conway came away with a steal followed by a transition layup which completed a 13-4 third-quarter spurt, trimming the deficit to 29-26 to begin the fourth. Zinkievich led the way with seven points during Pavilion’s critical third-quarter effort, while Kingsley added four more points to up her total to 16 through three quarters. Kingsley finished with 20 for the game to go with 13 rebounds and three blocks.
Immediately to start the final frame, Zinkievich drained a 3-pointer, tying the score at 29. Then, Pavilion came up with a stop on the defensive end before an Ella Tillotson layup provided the Gophers with their first lead since it was 2-0 in their favor, with the score now 31-29 with 5:25 remaining.
Just over a minute later, Randolph regained the lead on a 3-pointer from Pence, which put the Cardinals back out in front, 32-31, with 4:10 remaining. As was the case all afternoon, Pavilion refused to quit, with two free throws from Zinkievich regaining the Gophers’ advantage at 33-32 with 3:40 left in the fourth. Pavilion’s lead didn’t last long, as another 3-pointer, this time from Skylar Herington, regained Randolph’s advantage at 35-33 with 3:30 left on the clock.
Kingsley would head to the line on the ensuing Pavilion possession, knocking down two critical free throws to tie the game at 35 with 3:14 remaining. However, a jumper from Herington, followed by a steal, then another 3-pointer from Pence extended the Randolph lead to 40-35 with 2:35 remaining. Trailing by five, Pavilion went back to Kingsley on the ensuing possession, and she converted a layup to trim the deficit to three with 2:05 left in the fourth.
After both teams came up empty on their next possession, a timeout was called with 1:10 remaining, which preceded a clutch 3-pointer from Zinkievich, tying the game at 40 with 40 seconds remaining.
Another timeout was called before Randolph executed a half-court set to perfection which opened up an easy look at the rim converted by Katelyn Storer to push the Cardinals ahead by two with 10 seconds remaining. Pavilion called for timeout to draw up a set of their own, but failed to execute, firing up a desperation heave from the perimeter with four seconds left, which Randolph corralled for the rebound before the Gophers fouled quickly with just over one second on the clock. The ball was advanced to mid court, Randolph inbounded the ball successfully and wasted the final ticks off the clock before it began to celebrate its regional victory.
As the Cardinals celebrated, the Gophers walked off the court, distraught, with Zinkievich, Kingsley and many others in tears near the Pavilion bench. The final seconds had ticked away, not only on the Gophers’ season, but on Zinkievich and Kingsley’s careers. Two of the most accomplished athletes in the school’s history had watched their final moments on the high school hardwoord expire.
It was difficult to watch.
As his two senior stars made their way off the floor, Coach Schwenebraten thanked them for all they had done for the Pavilion girls’ basketball program, which transformed into a perennial power, propelled by the talents of Kingsley and Zinkievich.
“Karlee and Lauren willed us back into the game after halftime. Their leadership has been immeasurable over the last few years,” said the Pavilion head coach. “They have carried the program, school and community on a multi-year sectional title run that won’t be forgotten.”
Pavilion’s championship season comes to a close with a record of 22-4, while the Cardinals advance to the NYSPHSAA semifinal with a record of 20-4.
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