SPRINGFIELD – When the game’s leading scorer, Dayton senior Sayre Brandstatter, scored on a lefty layup to tie the game for the fourth and what would be the final time inside of four minutes to go, the home team’s crowd erupted.
Visiting Brearley, which earlier led by as many as 15 and more very recently by five, could have caved in.
However, that was the last thing the Bears did.
Immediately after Brandstatter’s final points brought Dayton even once again with Brearley with 3:45 to go, Brearley senior guard Hanna Bondalo came down and quickly sank a 3-pointer – her second of the game – from the left side to put the Bears back in front.
Bondalo’s basket – which proved to be the game-winning shot – sparked a game-closing 16-4 run that led much-improved Brearley to a 59-47 triumph over Dayton in Friday night’s Union County Conference-crossover contest at Dayton High School.
Brearley improved to 12-2 overall, winning its fourth straight. The Bears already have one more win than they had last year when they posted a second straight winning season with an 11-7 record.
Dayton lost its second straight to fall to 6-8.
Brearley, which leads the UCC’s Sky Division at 5-0, has a division game at Rahway Saturday afternoon. Dayton, which is 2-2 in the Valley Division, is at division rival GL Saturday.
Considering the opponent it would not have been a devastating loss had Brearley been beaten. However, the win is magnified considering the opponent, a team Brearley has not defeated in some time.
“Every shot, every rebound is so integral to our success,” said Bondalo, who finished with 11 points and was one of four Brearley players to finish with double-digits.
Tahirah Kelley paced Brearley with 15 points and was the game’s leading scorer at intermission with 10. Scoring 14 was junior guard Micaela Etlinger, while junior center Paige Middleton contributed 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Brandstatter, who fouled out with 3:28 remaining and Dayton down 52-43, led all scorers with 19 points, including a game-high three 3-pointers.
Dayton junior center Michelle Bellino, who fouled out earlier in the fourth quarter, closed with 10 points. Her final three were the last three points scored in the third quarter – a conventional 3-point play – that tied the game for the third time at 37-37.
Both teams were minus a starter, senior Alyssa Filippone for Brearley and senior Maggie Phillips for Dayton.
Bondalo’s 3-point basket that put the Bears ahead for good at 46-43 was a product of how this season is going so far for Brearley. Relax and everything will be fine.
“It wasn’t just my shot,” Bondalo said. “All of the opportunities we had tonight shows what kind of team we have.
“Our team dynamic is something different. All of us growing up together in the same town is something special.”
In what seemed like just seconds Brearley built a lead back up to five at 43-38 on two Middleton free throws, then Dayton came back with a 3-pointer from Caitlynn McTernan and Brandstatter’s final basket to tie the game at 43-43 and then Bondalo’s 3-pointer ignited what would be an instant 12-0 run before Dayton would score again.
Middleton scored inside with exactly three minutes to go and then Etlinger followed with two free throws – Dayton committed its 10th foul with 4:49 left in the fourth – to make it 50-43. Etlinger added two more free throws, Bondalo made one of two and then Middleton grabbed an offensive rebound and put the ball in to make it a 55-43 game with less than two minutes remaining.
A basket in the lane by freshman Gabriella Palermo pulled Dayton to within 10 at 55-45. Palermo made a layup to make it 57-47, but that would be the closest Dayton would get near the very end.
This was the first time Brearley defeated Dayton during the four seasons head coach Jenna Vitale has been at the helm.
“We have a lot of respect for Dayton,” Vitale said. “They may not have a strong record, but they play in a tough division.”
Vitale realized that Bondalo’s basket to give Brearley the lead for the fourth and final time was as clutch as it gets.
“That shot set the tone,” Vitale said. “It was a huge shot by someone who is displays herself as a leader of this team.
“All of our girls stepped up. Our communication was strong. At the end we played better defensively and moved the ball well.”
This was a game of runs that saw Brearley close the first quarter 6-0 to take an 18-9 lead and then go on a 7-0 spurt in the second quarter to go up by 15 – the game’s biggest margin – to forge ahead 25-10.
Dayton chipped away to pull to within six at 37-31 on two Bellino free throws. Then Brandstatter connected on her third and final 3 to make it a 37-34 game. Bellino then grabbed an offensive rebound, put the ball in, was fouled and made the ensuing free throw to send the game to the fourth quarter knotted at 37-37.
Dayton closed the third period on an 11-0 run, but could not get over the hump of taking the lead again. Dayton’s only advantage was 2-0 after Brandstatter made the game’s first two free throws.
A free throw by Middleton gave Brearley its third lead at 38-37.
“I was encouraged how we fought our way back in the game,” Dayton head coach Dave Rennie said. “Sayre started to hit some shots for us, but we got into some foul trouble that hurt us.”
Brearley was six-for-six from the free throw line entering the fourth quarter, including not going to the line at all in the first period. The Bears then made 15 free throws in the final eight minutes.
“We practice free throws every single day,” Vitale said. “Free throws win games and it showed tonight.”
NOTES: Brearley’s success so far will see the Bears be a part of this year’s Union County Tournament, which will be seeded after the Super Bowl.
“We’re looking forward to that,” Bondalo said. “Coach tells us how crucial every single game is.”
Vitale – a standout basketball and softball player at Brearley who graduated in 2007 and then played softball at William Paterson – sees a team hungry for success.
“Having played for this program, it’s an honor and a privilege to be leading this team,” Vitale said. “I’m very proud of the girls.”
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-CROSSOVER CONTEST
Brearley (12-2) 18 11 08 22 – 59
Dayton (6-8) 09 09 19 10 – 47
BREARLEY BEARS (59):
10-Sofia Lospinoso, junior, 2-0-2-6
1-Hannah Bondalo, senior, 1-2-3-11
32-Paige Middleton, junior, 4-0-5-13
2-Micaela Etlinger, junior, 1-2-6-14
4-Tahirah Kelley, 5-0-5-15
15-Emma Bestider, freshman, 0-0-0-0
12-Amber Batista, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Bondalo, Etlinger,
Kelley, Lospinoso, Middleton
DAYTON BULLDOGS (47):
41-Gabriella Palermo, freshman, 3-0-1-7
30-Sayre Brandstatter, senior, 4-3-2-19
15-Caitlynn McTernan, senior, 1-1-0-5
2-Haeley Santos, junior, 0-0-1-1
32-Michelle Bellino, junior, 2-0-6-10
5-Alexandria Monguso, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
21-Casey Janker, junior, 0-0-3-3
22-Mya Sims-Taylor, freshman, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Bellino, Brandstatter,
McTernan, Santos, Sims-Taylor.