B y Keith Harrington

“We were right there.” Those were the first words uttered by Whitehall girls basketball coach Boyd Hunt as he emerged from the locker room at Hudson Valley Community College on Saturday. And his comments could not have been more accurate.

The seven-seeded Railroaders dominated the first quarter and trailed by a mere point at halftime before a third quarter spurt by top-seeded Fort Edward allowed them to pull away for a 46-28 win in the Section II Class D championship game.

“They’re a good team,” Hunt said. “They beat us. When a good team beats you there’s nothing to be ashamed of. We had a shot at the title, and we came up short.”

It was the first title after a four-year drought for the powerhouse Flying Forts, who won four straight championships from 2013 to 2016. It was the first and final chance for a group of four seniors who had never played on the McDonough Center court.

“It means a lot, especially to the seniors,” said Fort Edward coach Jason Thomas. ‘We talk to them about leaving your legacy. For the four seniors we’ve been working at this for four years.”

The start of the contest was a little rocky for the Flying Forts. Whitehall used an aggressive defense to stifle the Fort Edward attack. Madison Gould opened the scoring with a 3-pointer from the right baseline. A Zoe Eggleston bucket made it 5-0 Railroaders, and they went on to lead 9-5 after the first quarter.

In the second frame a three-point play by Kyrie Smith extended the Railroaders’ lead to 12-5, but Fort Edward responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game. An Eggleston trey gave Whitehall its final lead of the afternoon at 15-12. A pair of free throws by Isabella Gulick and a basket by Gabby Khlosinin handed the Flying Forts their first lead at 16-15. It was an advantage they never relinquished.

“We didn’t have many shots fall in the second half,” Hunt said. “We kind of started to struggle toward the end of the second quarter. The struggle started to become real.”

The third quarter turned out to be the difference. Fort Edward opened the frame on a 14-1 run to lead 30-16. The Railroaders went ice cold and could not make up the deficit, trailing 32-20 heading to the fourth.

Whitehall closed to within 32-21 on a Smith free throw to open the final stanza, but a Thomas basket and a 3-pointer by Haleigh Condon ballooned the Fort Edward lead to 37-21 and the Flying Forts cruised to the finish line from there.

Thomas, the Class D Tournament MVP, had a huge game for Fort Edward, recording a double-double with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Condon added eight points for the Flying Forts.

Smith paces Whitehall with 12 points. Eggleston contributed eight points, five rebounds and three assists and 8th grader Samantha Howland hauled in seven rebounds.

Fort Edward raises its record to 21-2 and moves on to regional play to meet Section VII champion Bolton Saturday at Beekmantown.

Whitehall finishes the season 13-11.

Hunt was pleased with his team’s effort this season and with no seniors on the roster looks forward to what’s ahead.

“I am proud of them,” Hunt said. “These are the building blocks for the future. You the lay the groundwork and you hope the expectation becomes the thoughts to be here every year.”

Joining Thomas on the Class D All-Tournament team were Condon, Smith, Eggleston, Hartford’s Abigail Monroe and Brytney Moore of Northville.

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