Assistant Sports Editor
HOOSICK, N.Y. -- Shaky in the opening minutes, it took an acrobatic buzzer-beater from senior Frankie Pearson for fourth-seeded Hoosick Falls Central School to hit its stride against No. 13 Voorheesville.
With less than 5 seconds left in the first quarter, Pearson sliced into the key from the right. She elevated to zip a one-handed pass to Rachel Pine, spotted up in the left corner, only to change her mind when her defender tried to cut her off. Switching hands mid-flight, she fired a 12-footer that smacked the backboard before going down for a 17-7 lead.
"I was like, ‘Oh, wide open.' So I kind of just lofted it up there.
And it turned out the short jumper was just the start. Pearson scored eight of the Panthers' next 12 points, part of a 24-0 run that set Hoosick Falls free for a 68-50 win in the first round of the Class C girls basketball sectionals on Tuesday night.
The Panthers face No. 5 Duanesburg, a 65-29 winner against Galway Tuesday night, in the quarterfinals Friday night. That game is at Hoosic Valley at 6 p.m.
"I told the girls coming in tonight if we beat [Voorheesville] that will be the best team we've beat," said Hoosick coach Eamonn DeGraaf. "I don't think we've beat a team better than them. They have good guards and a good focal point in their center."
Hosting its first playoff game since well before any of the current players were on the varsity roster, Hoosick Falls (13-6) never let the Blackbirds (7-13), last year's sectional finalists get within 10 after the end of the first quarter.
They led 29-7 before a 3-pointer from Anna Norris (12 points) snapped the early surge.
"Since Day 1 we wanted to turn it around," said Pearson, who finished with a game-high 26 points, nine rebounds, four steals and four assists in her final home game.
"[Being] 13-6 right now is a good feeling right now because Hoosick Falls hasn't seen that in a long time," she said.
Geared up to stop Voorheesville's Anna Feller, a looming presence inside at 6-foot-2, the Panthers wreaked havoc before she could get the ball with a full-court, trapping press.
Feller had just three points at halftime before finishing with a dozen.
"Olivia Schneider did a great job guarding her man-to-man and Kelly Pine was the help-side all game and did a good job keeping her off the boards," DeGraaf said.
Hoosick Falls sophomore Rachel Pine nearly had a double-double as a result of the end-to-end pressure, collecting eight steals to go along with her 18 points.
"We didn't handle that very well. We had a lot of unforced turnovers -- a lot of that being nerves -- and we put the ball in the wrong spot," said Voorheesville coach Michael Baron.
Pine and Pearson combined for 27 of Hoosick Falls' 32-18 halftime lead.
The Blackbirds tried to get back into the contest with pressure of their own after the break. They were led by 17 points from Katina Wallace, but even connecting on nine 3-pointers wasn't enough to edge the Panthers.
"The press allowed us to get in transition and get some layups and them pressing us kind of worked out to our advantage, too," DeGraaf said.
Eighth-grader Kelly Pine chipped in with eight points and nine rebounds for Hoosick Falls, while Olivia Schneider also tallied eight.