TUPPER LAKE - Senior point guard Katie Stuart played one of the best postseason games ever for a Tupper Lake girls basketball player, but it wasn't enough as the Lumberjacks fell to St. Lawrence 43-39 in the Section X, Class C semifinals.
Stuart scored 28 of her team's 39 points despite being double- and triple-teamed for the entire game. Stuart started off slow as she struggled to adjust to the constant pressure, but then went on to score 25 or her team's final 30 points. In the second half, she scored 22 of her team's 24 points.
Stuart, the lone senior on the team, also had 14 rebounds, seven steals, two assists and a blocked shot.
Tupper Lake senior Katie Stuart drives to the basket Thursday night against St. Lawrence’s Breanna Vatter during a Section X, Class C semifinal game. The Lumberjacks lost 43-39 despite getting 28 points from Stuart.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
"It's what she's been doing for me for two years. It's tough to see a kid like that graduate," Lumberjacks coach Jenn Cook said. "She puts everything into it, everything. She'll leave it all on the court, and it's going to be tough to see a kid like that not play for me anymore."
With the win, the third-seeded Larries advanced to play top-seeded Canton, a 68-30 winner over Brushton-Moira on Thursday. Tupper Lake, the No. 2 seed, finished the season with an overall record of 11-9.
Down 20-15 to start the second half, Stuart got rolling by hitting a 3-pointer with 5 minutes and 41 seconds left in the third quarter. She then hit one of two free throws, followed by a runner in lane and two more free throws. Finally, with 2:34 left in the quarter, she nailed a baseline jumper to give her team a 25-24 lead. She followed that with a jumpshot from the foul line to give her team a 27-24 advantage.
With one second left in the third quarter, Lizzie Zurek hit a short jumper to give the Lumberjacks a 29-24 lead heading into the fourth.
In the final quarter, Stuart hit all six of her free throw attempts, a baseline jumper and a put-back as the teams exchanged leads.
The put-back, which were Stuart's last points of the game and of her high school career, was perhaps the most impressive of the fourth quarter because of its timing.
With just two minutes left in the game, Stuart seemingly came out of nowhere to grab a missed shot from Zurek and put it in the basket for a layup. The two points gave Tupper Lake a 39-38 advantage, which would be the Lumberjacks last lead of the game.
St. Lawrence took back the lead when Lindsay Thayer was fouled on a layup that she made with 1:20 left. Thayer, who finished with 14 points, sank the foul shot, giving her team a 41-39 lead.
With the Larries swarming Stuart, she was unable to score any more points and Tupper Lake failed to score.
St. Lawrence sealed the win when Jenna Kesner hit two free throws with 19 seconds left.
"She was injured and she came out there at the end of the game and played a little bit there at the end," Larries coach Chad Gauther said. "That made a big difference right there. Having here on the floor, her floor awareness out there."
While the win was heartbreaking, it was quite a turnaround for the Lumberjacks since the last time the two teams met.
St. Lawrence beat Tupper Lake 51-14 on Jan. 31 in their last meeting.
"We changed our defense," Cook said. "We knew 11 was their shooter. I mean, she's a good player. She's going to get open regardless, but they put up a fight. We came, we played hard, we just came up short on the scoreboard."
Cook was referring to Breanna Vatter, who had four 3-pointers on her way to 16 points.
While the Larries won the second meeting handily, Tupper Lake did win the first game between the teams on Dec. 11 by a score of 38-35.
That victory came during an eight-game winning streak for the Lumberjacks. That streak's final win came on Jan. 4, the same night that forward Lindsey Maroun was lost for the season with a knee injury.
Not having Maroun hurt the Lumberjacks because she was a good athlete who could provide some secondary offense to Stuart, grab rebounds and play defense.
Against St. Lawrence, Tupper's Ryane O'Connor did step up and play well, scoring seven points and grabbing 12 rebounds but the rest of the team only generated four points.
While the Lumberjacks struggled to find secondary scoring on offense, they were still able to play strong team defense and ultimately that played a big role Thursday night in getting them back into the game.
Tupper Lake held St. Lawrence to five points in the second quarter and four points in the third .
"We were communicating better on defense, Katie was picking up her confidence," Cook said.
But the Lumberjacks couldn't stop St. Lawrence in the fourth quarter, giving up 19 points.