The Rome Free Academy girls basketball team defended its home court on Senior Night, defeating Tri-Valley League foe New Hartford 75-54 on Tuesday night.
It was the home-opener for the Black Knights, who remained unbeaten at 3-0.
Sophomore Amya McLeod paced Rome, which has only eight players, with a team-high 26 points.
“We’ve worked really hard and we’ve had some great practices even though we have low numbers,” McLeod said. “We all give it our all during practice.”
McLeod opened the scoring for RFA, cashing in on a layup right off of the opening tip to put the hosts up 2-0. That first bucket by McLeod sparked a 10-3 run to start the contest, with McLeod and seniors Zoe Evans and Abigail Call contributing.
The Spartans clawed their way back in with junior guard Kaia Henderson getting a steal and converting a layup on the other end while getting fouled for the old fashioned three-point play. With the score 10-6, Henderson found her way to the bucket again to make it a two-point game. With 3:52 to go in the opening quarter, Sophia Murray knocked down a pair of free throws to tie the game at 10.
Henderson scored a game-high 34 points to lead the Spartans.
Call answered with a three for the Black Knights to give them the lead right back but the Spartans answered every RFA basket with one of their own. With the two teams trading points for the remainder of the opening quarter, RFA held a 20-16 lead at the end of the first eight minutes of play.
McLeod and Call opened the scoring in the second quarter for the Black Knights, giving them a 24-16 lead, but the Spartans answered, cutting the lead to five after baskets by Emilee Clarey and Henderson. Clarey made a layup and on the following possession, Evans added a bucket for RFA. Then Henderson got the hoop and the harm with 6:08 to go in the first half, but Evans made another basket for the Black Knights. Henderson made another bucket to make it a 28-23 game with 4:35 to go in the half, but RFA senior Jace Hunzinger nailed a three to push the lead back to eight. McLeod also buried a three on the next possession for RFA to make it a 34-23 game. Both teams added another bucket before the halftime buzzer to make it a 36-25 game at the break.
The third quarter belonged to Hunzinger and RFA. Early on, the teams traded buckets, but with about four minutes to go, Hunzinger sparked a 6-0 run herself to give RFA a 48-35 lead with 3:24 remaining in the quarter. Henderson answered the run with a three, but Call came down on the other end and put a bucket in for the Black Knights. After a stop, Hunzinger came down the floor and buried a three to give RFA a 15-point lead. Another bucket by New Hartford was answered by two more for the Black Knights. Hunzinger scored 11 of her 18 points in the third quarter.
“We knew that we were going to have to step it up big,” Hunzinger said. “Coach told us that offensively and defensively we have to stop Kaia and we can’t let her get her points and that’s exactly what we did together as a team. It was just a great overall team win.”
RFA pulled away in the fourth quarter to roll to their third victory in as many games.
“I thought that this was the first game that we played as a team,” RFA head coach Al Bevilacqua said. “We moved the ball and we played hard. We played as a team and we competed and I’m just proud of them for that. They tried to press us, we were able to break it. Overall, I think it was our best night, offensively, defensively. We knew we were going to have to work defensively.”
“We’re feeling pretty great especially after a win against a team like New Hartford,” Evans said. “We’re just really honored to play.”
“We just came out and gave it our all,” Call added. “Us seniors came out here and powered through. We killed it.”
The three RFA seniors who were honored before the game are Call, Evans and Hunzinger. Call finished with 16 points and Evans had 11.
The Black Knights return to the floor on Friday night when they host Whitesboro at 6.