CLAYTON The Thousand Islands girls basketball team has been talking about it for more than four years.
The senior-laden squad has envisioned making a memorable run in the Section 3 tournament since coach Pete Pettit started moving them up to varsity as freshmen and eighth-graders.
That run started on Friday night for the second-seeded Vikings with a convincing 53-28 victory over No. 7 Tully in the Class C-1 quarterfinals at Thousand Islands High School.
Senior Kristin McGraw scored a game-high 20 points for Thousand Islands, which improved to 16-2 and will play No. 3 Little Falls (15-4) in Wednesdays semifinals at Onondaga Community College. Little Falls advanced with a 46-24 victory over No. 6 South Lewis on Friday.
Weve played together since youth commission, so weve come all the way up, said McGraw, a fifth-year varsity player. Were really determined this year.
It really shows. We have great team chemistry, she added.
Senior point guard Alesha Waterman and sophomore reserve Ashley Anchor added nine points apiece for Thousand Islands.
Senior Allie Barton, who was a Frontier League all-star in volleyball before changing sports before last season, grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
This is the year to do it, we really want it bad, said Waterman, a four-year varsity player. Thats been our only goal since November to go to the (Carrier) Dome.
The Vikings picked apart Tullys zone defense and used full-court pressure to race out to a 20-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. The game didnt get much closer afterward.
I told the girls in the locker room before the game, if we miss a (defensive) rotation, theyre going to score, and every time we didnt get to a shooter, they made it, Tully coach Jeff Russell said.
Tully (8-11) ended the first half on a 7-0 run to close the gap to 10 points at the break. But the Black Knights couldnt cut the deficit to less than nine.
McGraw hit back-to-back 3-point field goals late in the third quarter to put Thousand Islands up 43-22, essentially icing the game.
They know that this is their year, this is why I brought them up early as eighth-graders and ninth-graders, and since the beginning of the year their only goal was, Lets get to the finals, Pettit said.
To have a goal like that all year long on our shoulders, and to finally come out, get in the tournament and win our first game, thats a good plus. So I think were highly motivated, and hopefully this springboards us to some more successful play, he added.
Anchors three 3-pointers are a season high. She had made a total of eight this season entering Friday.
We know shes a great shooter, Pettit said. Thats the tough part with this team, theres a lot of talent and its tough to fit them all on the court. I can only play five at a time, but thats a good problem to have I guess.
Danielle ONeill led the Black Knights with 12 points, 10 coming in the first half.
Thousand Islands switched out of its man-to-man defense at halftime, and held Tully to 10 points on 5-for-26 shooting in the second half.