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December 11, 2017
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Epilogue as prologue

Eldred sophomore Jordan Lepes rises up for two of her game-high 28 points in the 54-45 Lady Yellow Jackets’ Regional Final loss to South Kortright. Eldred finished its fine season at 16-4.
Photos by Richard A. Ross, sportsinsightsny.com

NEWBURGH, NY — The gym at Mount St. Mary College was strangely quiet and nearly empty. Still on hand were the loving parents and friends of the remarkable Eldred Lady Yellowjackets, as the team remained in the locker room listening to the comforting and affirming words of their coach Ryan Jasper. Their season and hoped-for return to the state Final Four had been obviated by a stinging 54-45 loss to Section Four’s undefeated Lady Rams of South Kortright. For Eldred, which had played an uncharacteristically off-kilter first half, to have come back and tied the game at 43-all with just 1:47 remaining on Jordan Lepes’ back-to-back three-pointers, only to have the game slip away and end their glorious ride, the impact was heart-rending. At the same time, both the season’s fine run and this tough loss would provide the impetus to restart the quest aimed at an entirely different outcome 366 days hence. With no seniors in the fold, Eldred, which ended its season at 16-4, will reload with a vengeance.
Life is a learning curve, and as NBA all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul Jabbar once noted, “You cannot learn to win until you learn how to lose.” Losses were few for this talented team as they fell only to Class C Pine Plains, now the only Section IX team bound for the Final Four, Class C Tuxedo, Class A Port Jervis and 24-0 South Kortright. Eldred’s sole state glory dates back to its 1988 undefeated season and state title propelled by the incomparable Tammi Reiss. The Lady Yellowjackets haven’t won a state round game since. This year they had hoped to break the drought.
The Yellowjackets trailed nearly the entire way as they fell behind 12-8 at the end of the first quarter, slipping further behind at 25-13 by halftime. The team seemed recharged in the second half despite foul trouble that consigned fiery guard Sheila Burns and center Kelsey Collins to the bench. Eldred shaved the deficit to four before giving up the final four points of the third quarter to trail 38-30 going into the fourth quarter. Lepes scored 11 of Eldred’s 17 points in the third frame en route to a game-high 28. Her pair of treys, part of her eight points in the fourth quarter, were not enough to offset South Kortright’s big shots and its trips to the free-throw line to secure the win. Collins ended up with seven points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Destinee Arnold provided a big lift in the third and fourth quarters. She finished with six points. As the girls issued forth from the locker room there were hugs, tears, affirmations and a last group huddle. As has often been reiterated by this writer, the true measure of success comes from knowing that you did everything you could to be the best you could be. This team and its coach clearly are best adjudged by that standard. They made their families, friends, school, community and the entire section proud. For much more on the game, the comments by Jasper and this writer’s take on the character and accomplishments of this squad, read “The Wearing of the Green” on www.sportsinsightsny.com and be sure to look in on the photo album at www.sportsiny.com. For the Livingston Manor Wildcats, whose Section IX title was further augmented by a 60-54 win over Section One’s Clark Academy, the run would end in a 70-39 regional final loss to Section 11’s Bridgehampton, which earned the trip to Glens Falls to play Section Seven’s Moriah in the semifinals. The Wildcats made it to that storied arena in 2012, where they lost 67-55 to Section 10’s Madrid-Waddington in the semifinals. Unlike the Eldred girls team, the Manor boys will lose a bevy of talent to graduation this year. For albums of photos visit www.sportsiny.com. To sign up for spring Shadow Play coverage of your favorite athlete, to receive a DVD of outstanding photos at the end of the season, e-mail rross@sportsinsightsny.com.