UTICA -The Lady Raiders are moving on.
The fourth-seeded Fulton-Montgomery Community College women's basketball team survived multiple runs by fifth-seeded Finger Lakes Community College to pull away in the closing minutes for a 64-51 victory in the quarterfinals of the Region III Division III tournament Friday at Mohawk valley Community College.
FMCC (18-7) advances to play top-seeded Mohawk Valley Community College (27-2) in today's semifinal round. Tip off is set for 1 p.m.
Finger Lakes Community College’s Jordan Smith (14) attempts to draw the foul as Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s Grace Rutagengwa drives to the basket during Friday’s Region III Division III quarterfinal game at Mohawk Valley Community College. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
The Hawks advanced to the semifinal round with an 86-40 win over No. 8 Tompkins-Cortland Community College.
In other quarterfinal play, No. 6 Clinton Community College upset No. 3 Herkimer Community College 54-42 and second seed Onondaga Community College defeated No. 7 SUNY Delhi 89-56.
"I think right now once you get past that nervousness of trying to get to the next round things settle down," FMCC coach Kevin Jones said. "Now that we are there, we can lay it all out there and get after it. Mohawk is very good but we are going to come out, get after them and contend for a championship."
First team Region III All-Star Kassandra Flowers got the Lady Raiders off to a quick start, hitting the first of her five 3-pointers in the seconds of Friday's game. Grace Rutagengwa and Sherice Gayle added baskets to push FM's early lead to 7-2.
Keyed by Casey Dean's 3-pointer, the Lakers went on a 9-0 run to put the Lady Raiders down 11-7 with just under 12 minutes remaining in the opening half.
The Lady Raiders regained their composure behind strong efforts from Flowers and Sherice Gayle for a 9-0 run to retake the lead 16-11 with six minutes left in the opening half.
Flowers hit two more 3-pointers late in the first half, while Danea Sisti came in for Gayle after she collected her second foul of the half to control the boards and added a pair of baskets off offensive rebounds to help FMCC secure a 28-18 halftime advantage.
Helped by a 3-pointer from Kendra Jordan, the Lady Raiders opened their lead to 14-points just over five minutes into the second half, forcing Finger Lakes coach Bill Henry to call a time out to settle the Lakers down.
They responded with a 15-4 run to take FMCC's lead from 14 down to three, 42-39 with 7:36 left in the game.
Putbacks and strong defensive rebounds from Gayle and Sisti and a Flowers 3-pointer helped give the Lady Raiders some breathing room, 49-41.
However, the Lakers came back again with a Casey Dean trey and three points from Julia Pagano to trim FM's lead to a basket, 49-47 with four minutes left on the clock.
Sisti and Gayle took command under the baskets, grabbing defensive rebounds often limiting the Lakers to one attempt.
FMCC got a late-game spark from reserve player Erica Ward. The freshman came off the bench to hit seven points, including a back-breaking 3-pointer with 2:11 left to play to give the Lady Raiders' an 11-point advantage, 58-47.
"We were very fortunate," Jones said. "When they got it down to two, if we didn't get the stops and that big three, we were in trouble."
Finger Lakes attempted to mount another run at FMCC, but the Lady Raiders responded by converting on 6-of-8 free throws in the final 40 seconds to secure the 64-51 victory.
"I think we got some good things out of some different kids today," Jones said. "Erica Ward did a fabulous job for us off the bench and Danea Sisti did a great job rebounding. That has been kind of our M.O. this year that somebody else is going to do something to help us win. We were fortunate and are happy to be in the second round."
Flowers led the Lady Raiders scoring with 18 points, while Gayle delivered 16 points and eight rebounds. Ward added 12 points and Sisti pulled down nine rebounds.
Finger Lakes (18-13) received double-digit scoring from Casi Strait and Jordan Smith. Strait finished with 15 points and Smith had 10.
Fulton-Montgomery Community College 64, Finger Lakes Community?College 51
Pagano 4-1-9, McCauley 2-3-7, Strait 6-2-15, Smith 4-2-10, Dean 3-0-8, Maiorano 1-0-2. Totals: 20-8-51.
Jordan 2-1-6, Ward 4-3-12, Chea 1-0-2, Flowers 6-1-18, Rutagengwa 2-0-4, Gayle 6-4-16, Sisti 3-0-6. Totals: 24-9-64.
3-point goals: Finger Lakes 3 (Dean 2, Strait); FMCC 7 (Flowers 5, Jordan, Ward).
Halftime: 28-18 FMCC.