By John Boccacino/Sports Information Director
Every time they don their jerseys, the five seniors on the Keuka College women's basketball team all know it could be their last game playing together for the Storm.
This group of seniors, Jessica Bandrowski (Center Moriches, NY/Center Moriches), Casey Chamberlain (Perry, NY/Perry), Danielle Gravel (Sidney, NY/Sidney), Brittany Sinnott (Mount Kisco, NY/Fox Lane) and Taylor Szwec (Candor, NY/Candor) have guided the Storm to unprecedented heights in their four years in Keuka Park.
The quintet has posted a 75-22 record (.773 winning percentage), including winning 60 of 69 in the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC).
The Storm have won two NEAC postseason championships and earned the program's first back-to-back NCAA appearances during their tenure.
Now these seniors know time is running out on their playing careers, and the thought of extending their playing careers as long as possible has fueled this team as it prepares for Saturday night's NEAC semifinal against defending champion Lancaster Bible College.
Keuka (12-10), which earned the No. 2 seed out of the NEAC North division, takes on host Lancaster Bible (19-5) at 6 p.m. in one semifinal, with Gallaudet (15-10) facing Wells College (17-6) at 8 p.m. in the other semifinal contest.
The NEAC championship is at 3 p.m. Sunday, with the winner earning the conference's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III tournament.
"Every time we step onto the court, we know it could be the last time that we play for Keuka, so we all want to make this run last as long as possible," said Szwec, who earned third-team All-NEAC honors, the first all-conference selection of her career.
"Hopefully we're able to come away with the title. We have so many people who can shoot the ball for us, and when we're shooting well and playing good defense, it can be really hard to stop us."
The group is finally healthy, as Bandrowski returned to the lineup in Tuesday night's thrilling, 80-77 overtime triumph over Cazenovia that propelled the Storm into the NEAC semifinals.
Bandrowski had been dealing with a concussion, but passed all of her tests and was able to score 18 points with 6 steals and 5 assists in the quarterfinal win.
Szwec recorded her third straight double-double with a career-high 22 rebounds and 10 points, and Gravel added 23 points and shot 53.3 percent from the floor (8 of 15), including connecting on 50 percent of her '3s' (6 of 12) to lead the Green and Gold.
The Storm, who have won six of the nine NEAC postseason championships, improved to 19-3 all-time in the NEAC tournament, by far the most wins of any school in the conference.
They know it will be difficult to knock off the Chargers at home, but Keuka played well and held a second-half lead in the regular-season matchup, won by Lancaster 75-62 on Feb. 14.
Playing without Bandrowski, Gravel scored 18 points and Szwec and junior Erica Pendrak (New Hartford, NY/New York Mills) each added nine points, but the Storm suffered the loss.
Trailing at the half, the Green and Gold came out fired up to start the second half and went on a 14-5 run to take a 41-40 lead on a pair of free throws from senior Casey Chamberlain (Perry, NY/Perry).
Pendrak knocked down a '3' to even the score at 45, but the Chargers answered with a 16-5 run and never looked back. The Storm fell despite shooting 40.4 percent (23 of 57) from the floor while holding the Chargers to 37.5 percent shooting (21 of 56).
"It does help having already played at Lancaster. We did have a lead the last time we played, and that game was a battle for us, (considering) we didn't have Jess on the floor," said Katie Marcella, Keuka's second-year head coach.
"Now we have her back so hopefully we're that much stronger. With or without her, we're still a good team, but obviously we're a better with her on the floor. I'm excited to go down there and I want us to get as pumped up for Lancaster Bible as we do for SUNYIT."
Bandrowski earned first-team All-NEAC for the third straight season, while Gravel and Szwec each garnered third-team all-conference honors.
Bandrowski leads the Storm in scoring (15.8 ppg.), assists (4.5 apg.), steals (3.3 spg.) and field goal percentage (48.2 percent) while Gravel is second in scoring (13 ppg.) and third in assists (2 apg.) and steals (1.4 spg.).
Szwec ranks third in scoring (9.9 ppg.), is second in assists (3 apg.) and leads Keuka in rebounding (8.1 rpg.) and three-point percentage (48.8 percent). Chamberlain is fourth in scoring (8.1 ppg.) and second in rebounding (6.7 rpg.) while freshman Katie Stuart (Tupper Lake, NY/Tupper Lake) is fifth in scoring (7.9 ppg.) and third in rebounding (5.1 rpg.).
Besides wanting to continue their Keuka careers, this group has added motivation to knock off the Chargers in the semifinals. Lancaster Bible ended Keuka's season with a 67-63 victory in the 2013 NEAC championship.
"Winning NEAC's is definitely an attainable goal for us," said Szwec, who is averaging a double-double with 14.3 ppg. and 14.8 rpg. over her last four games.
"We played well when we played Lancaster Bible earlier in the season, and that definitely gives us some confidence heading into the semifinals. We're healthy and we're confident heading into the weekend."
Lancaster Bible is led by first-team All-NEAC selections Aubrey Folger (16.7 ppg., 11.4 rpg.) and Katy Stover (16.3 ppg.), and second-team All-NEAC pick Shanice Smith (14.2 ppg., 14 rpg.).
Keuka is fourth in the NEAC in scoring offense (67.8 ppg.) and seventh in defense (63.7 ppg.) while Lancaster Bible is third in offense (69.1 ppg.) and first in defense (53.4 ppg.).