Hartford sports round-up, March 10, 2022

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The Hartford girls basketball team won the Section II Class D title for the first time since 2005.
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Hartford girls win sectional title

By Keith Harrington

It must have felt like a weight had been lifted off their shoulders – or maybe like the monkey was finally off their backs. In their fifth and final attempt, Hartford seniors Karlee Nims and Gabbie McFarren, who’ve been members of the Hartford girls varsity basketball team since eighth grade, finally won the Section II Class D championship.

Jason Johnson’s Tanagers, the tournament’s top seed, overcame a bit of a rocky start and a determined three-seed Spa Catholic team to capture the elusive sectional crown, 73-63, Saturday at McDonough Center on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.

When Nims and McFarren were eighth-graders, Hartford lost to Argyle in the championship game. As freshmen the Tanagers were upset by Bishop Gibbons in the quarterfinals. As sophomores they came up short against Fort Edward in the semifinals. There were no sectionals their junior year because of Covid-19.

This year, Nims and McFarren, arguably the best two players in Class D, earned a final shot. And they took advantage of it.

“It’s such a relief,” Nims said. “I was here in 2018 and we didn’t get it. The fact that it’s my senior year and we finally win it, it’s a surreal feeling.”

Her coach concurred.

“We’ve been fighting for the last four or five years to win a title with this group,” Johnson said.

The victory marks the first sectional crown for Hartford since winning championships in 2004 and 2005.

The Tanagers seemed sluggish and nervous early on and the Saints fashioned a 12-5 lead. Hartford used a 6-0 spurt to pull within 12-11 and a 3-pointer by Mckenzie Johnson gave Hartford an 18-16 lead before Spa Catholic answered with their own long ball to lead 19-18 after a quarter.

The second quarter was tight throughout with the Saints typically clinging to a narrow lead. Spa Catholic led 32-31 when McFarren, who was named the Class D Tournament MVP, hit the shot that flipped the script, connecting on a trey as the first half expired to give the Tanagers momentum.

“We really didn’t change anything up (at halftime),” McFarren said. “We just played our defense, ran our offense, pushed the ball and played transition D.”

Hartford began the second half on a 9-2 run. Izzy French, who saved perhaps the best game of her career for the biggest stage, hit a 3-pointer to give the Tanagers a 43-34 advantage, forcing a Spa Catholic time out.

After play resumed, Harford extended the spurt to 20-4. French connected on another trey as time wound down to make it 61-43 after three periods. French scored six points in the first quarter when her teammates were still trying to find their footing in the HVCC Gym.

Hartford coach Jason Johnson addresses his team during Saturday’s Class D final. (Photo Credit-Lori Severance)

Saratoga Catholic wasn’t done yet. The Saints put together a run of their own as Ashley Upson hit a pair of deep treys, one from the left baseline and another from the right, to pull the Saints to within 69-63 with 1:33 to play.

It was the last points the Saints scored as McFarren scored on a putback and made two foul shots to seal the deal.

McFarren led Hartford with 22 points and six assists. French followed with 18 points and eight rebounds. Alawnah Dunda had 13 points and 14 boards and held down the paint after Nims fouled out late in the contest. Nims finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Upson paced Spa Catholic with 25 points. Allison Motler chipped in 19.

McFarren was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Nims, Upson, Motler, North Warren’s Nicole Buckman and Hailey Monroe of Northville.

Hartford, now 19-4, will play Section VII champion Boquet Valley on Saturday at noon at Clinton Community College in the state regionals. A win would put the Tanagers back at Hudson Valley for the State Final Four the following weekend.

Spa Catholic ended the season 8-15.

The Hartford girls basketball team won the Section II Class D title for the first time since 2005. (Photo Credit-Hartford Central School)