DANSVILLE — In just her first season at the helm, head coach Arin Beldin has the Dansville girls basketball team back in the Section V championship game.
The top-seeded Mustangs are 16-6 and they will meet No. 3 Hornell (14-8) for the Class B2 title, with tip-off scheduled for 12:45 p.m. on Saturday at Rush-Henrietta High School.
“They are a great group of kids who have been playing together for a long time.,” Beldin said. “I inherited some talented players and have just tried to continuously get better and improve as the year has gone on.”
Dansville last won a sectional title in 2020 when it won the Class B1 block. That team would go on to topple Class B2 winner Palmyra-Macedon in the crossover game before the remainder of the season was cancelled due to COVID-19 prior to the Far West Regional final. The next season saw the Mustangs advance to the Class B2 final before falling to Waterloo. That team finished at 12-1.
Meanwhile, in a bit of a rebuild last season, Dansville finished at just 11-11 with a quarterfinal sectional exit.
This season Dansville started at 6-1 before back-to-back losses to Class A Churchville-Chili and to Canisteo-Greenwood. A pair of losses to a strong Livonia team would later follow, while the Mustangs would also fall to the same Hornell team they will face on Saturday.
For Beldin, there have certainly been some important aspects of the season that have led Dansville to this point.
“I think the key moments have been losing two one-point games early on in the year to Pavilion and Canisteo, along with a one-point overtime come-from-behind win vs. Hornell in our 1st match up at home against them,” Beldin said. “These experiences have helped our mental toughness and handling of end of game, pressure situations. The girls have used these experiences to help them learn how to win. Sometimes you can learn more from your losses than your victories.”
It’s also been quite the ride for Beldin in her first year as head coach as she has looked to get back to level that Coach Kristen Kershner had the team just a few seasons ago.
“It has been fun coaching here and leading this group of girls,” Beldin said. “They are a great group of kids who are really close and have good team chemistry. Of course, there are ups and downs in a season, but overall I have been proud of them for how they have accepted me as a new coach and bought into what I’ve been asking them to do. It is a wonderful honor to be the No. 1 seed, but we all know that we haven’t one anything yet and winning a sectional title is our ultimate goal this season.”
Leading the way for the Mustangs this season has been guard Chelsie Tyler, who is averaging 12.8 points per game to go with 4.5 rebounds per game. Forward Aynsley Belcher has also been impressive, averaging a double-double of 12 points and over 10 rebounds per night, while Taylor Hamsher (6.9 ppg.), Kali Meyer (6.4 ppg.), Megan Tyler (five ppg.) and Emma Allen (4.8 ppg., 6.1 rpg.) have also added to the depth of this group.
Beldin was an impressive athlete at Warsaw High School, where she graduated in 2000. She is in the Athletic Hall of Fame at Warsaw, after playing three sports — soccer, basketball and softball. Beldin holds the record at Warsaw for most points scored in Warsaw basketball history (1,702), while she went on to play softball at Monroe Community Collegee. She also had stints as an assistant basketball coach at MCC.
Beldin was the head coach at Warsaw last season before making the switch to Dansville.
“Dansville sports have come a long way since I started here 15 years ago, especially on the girls side,” Beldin said. “I think the communities buy into youth levels of sports and support in that area has been huge. Also I’ve noticed big improvements to the standard of expectation and culture. It has taken some years and a lot of work but it has changed tremendously. Our teams also have year round strength and conditioning opportunities which I think help athletes in all sports at all levels both boys and girls.”
The Mustangs will get a Hornell team that actually lost its last two games of the regular season after reeling off five straight wins right before. The two teams split their two meetings during the regular season, with Dansville winning 44-43 in Dansville and Hornell taking the rematch 65-56 on Feb. 10.
Hornell has been led by guard Jordan Dyring, who is averaging 13.9 points per game, while Madelyn Moore is at 10.4 points and nine rebounds per night. Salena Maldonado (9.1 ppg., 5.8 rpg.), Peyton Bentley (6.5 ppg., 5.8 rpg.) and Reagan Evingham (6.5 ppg., 5.4 rpg.) have also had solid seasons for the Red Raiders.
“Both teams are extremely familiar with each other and have played in two close, hard fought games already this year,” Beldin said. “We know this game is going to be a battle and come down to whoever can execute better or do the little things. Every possession matters and that is how we are approaching the game. We are excited about the challenge and I’m hoping the girls can respond and be ready to go tomorrow. This is exactly the kind of match-up you would want to have in a sectional final.”