HOOSICK, N.Y. >> The Hoosick Falls Central School girls basketball team is headed back to the Section II, Class B semifinals.
In an impressive 63-26 victory over Wasaren League rival Stillwater on Saturday night, the No.1 seeded Panthers punched their ticket to a second straight Final 4 appearance in Class B.
Lizza Ryan scored a career-high 25 points, while Megan Flynn added 14 as Hoosick Falls improved to 20-2 on the year.
"Our half court pressure defense really affected them being able to get their offense moving," said Hoosick Falls coach Eamonn DeGraaf. "I don't think Stillwater ever felt comfortable when they were in their half court offense because of how well we executed our defense and that was a big key to us turning [a close game into a] double digit lead."
Needing to find a way to break the game open, the Panthers did what they do best, using its pressure defensive tactics in their half-court defense and started an 11-3 run to end the first quarter.
Key to the Panthers' early run was the play of senior Megan Flynn, who scored nine points in the first quarter, cutting through the Stillwater zone like it was paper.
"We knew we had to stay low behind their zone because they were cheating up to contest the outside shot, so our plan was to drive the lane and then pass to someone cutting in front of the basket for a shot attempt," Flynn said. "My job most of the time was to cut to the basket and my teammates found me, gave me nice passes and I went up and put them in."
In the second quarter, the Panthers continued to impose their will, getting some easy baskets in transition.
Leading that charge in the second quarter was Ryan, who scored 8 of her 10 first half points in the second quarter to help give the Panthers a 32-14 lead at halftime.
The junior floor general did it all for the Panthers at both ends of the floor, stealing passes, dishing out assists and driving to the hoop. She added six assists and three steals on the evening.
"They started play a box-and-one on Kelly (Pine) and Megan, so it left the lanes open for me and I just took advantage," Ryan said. "Also on defense, our team created a lot of turnovers that gave me some chances to get fast breaks going and score layups in transition."
Ryan continued to dominate the floor for the Panthers in the second half.
From knocking down layups inside to nailing a couple jumpers from the free throw line, Stillwater could do nothing to stop Ryan, who scored 13 points in the second half.
"I was surprised myself I was able to make some of those shots," Ryan said. "I'm not much of a shooter, but tonight my shots were falling and I felt like I could whatever I could do on the floor, whether it was on offense or defense."
Flynn finished with 14 points on the night, scoring 11 of them in the first half.
Junior Kelly Pine also finished in double figures for Hoosick Falls, scoring 11 points to help the Panthers advance to the semifinals.
With the win, Hoosick Falls improves to 20-2, making it back-to-back 20-win seasons for the Panthers.
"This was a great win for us. Again, different girls stepped up to help us win and that shows how good of a team we are," DeGraaf said. "Now though, we got to focus on the task at hand — preparing ourselves for a tough opponent in Voorheesville in the semifinals. We know it's going to be a battle and we got to bring the energy we brought tonight if want to move on to the finals."
Hooisck Falls will face the Blackbirds at Averill Park High School for its semifinal matchup on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.