The Cooperstown girls basketball team won a thrilling back-and-forth affair against Weedsport 64-59 on Saturday at Onondaga Community College to win the Section III Class C Championship.

Trailing by one in the final minute, the Lady Hawkeyes scored seven points in the last 30 seconds of play to secure the victory. Rory Nelen snatched a rebound and converted a three-point play to give Cooperstown a 60-59 lead. Meghan Niles then made a layup and Claire Jensen sank two free throws to seal the win.

Nelen scored a game-high 17 points for Cooperstown to go with six steals, five rebounds, and five assists. Dani Seamon, meanwhile, registered a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds. Brenna Seamon finished with 11 points, four rebounds, and three steals, Savannah Kirkby scored eight points, and Jensen had six points and four rebounds.

“Going to play in a regional game is a really exciting thing,” Cooperstown coach Mike Niles said.

After losing their first three games of the season, the Hawkeyes have bounced back and are currently riding a 13-game winning streak. Niles said there are a multitude of reasons for the team’s success this year, including the stellar play of Dani Seamon.

“Dani’s played at a very high level but very consistent,” he said. “She’s had a historic season as an individual. But the other part was that I feel that we got a little better at knowing what everyone’s doing in terms of individually matching up on defense. We could put the clamps on teams while we were trying to figure out the offense on a particular night.”

Niles also pointed to the big leap Nelen has taken as a junior this year.

“The other part is Rory Nelen has stepped up tremendously in sectionals, but she’s had a strong season,” he said. “Last season when she was a sophomore, she wasn’t a starter but her best games were in our toughest games as a sophomore. Her rise also can’t be discounted.”

Cooperstown last won the sectional title in 2020 before that season ended prematurely due to COVID. Niles said this season has been particularly special because of all the family connections to previous squads.

Dani Seamon was a freshman on that 2019-20 squad playing with her older sister Piper, and is now playing with younger sister Brenna. Elsewhere, Annelise Jensen and the rest of the Cooperstown JV squad are with the team as she gets to share a spot with older sister Claire. Last but not least, Niles spoke about how special it was to be able to coach his daughter Meghan for a sectional title-winning season.

“She’s been on the bench when we went up to Hudson Valley, she’s been on the bench rooting and cheering and wearing oversized jerseys since she was a little kid,” he said. “Her having big buckets in that fourth quarter… I just can’t put words on it; I’m so proud of her. It’s so fulfilling.”

The Hawkeyes will face Section IV Champion Union Springs in the State Regionals on Saturday, March 11 at Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.

“It’s a nice time,” Niles said. “In as much as we’re preparing for Union Springs, who’s a bit of a juggernaut, you take a minute to take it all in.”

Cooperstown 64, Weedsport 59

C … 15 15 16 18 — 64

W … 11 21 12 15 — 59

C: Meghan Niles 2 0-0 4, Tori France 1 0-0 2, Rory Nelen 8 1-1 17, Olivia Murdock 0 0-0 0, Claire Jensen 2 2-2 6, Hannah Craig 0 0-0 0, Dani Seamon 4 7-12 16, Brenna Seamon 5 1-1 11, Savannah Kirkby 3 2-2 8. Totals: 25 13-18 64

W: Molly Milton 0 1-2 1, Gabby Jeffers 3 7-11 13, Kayla Flask 1 3-4 6, Lauren DeJohn 1 2-4 5, Keegan McNabb 6 0-0 13, Morgan Flask 4 0-0 8, Mallory Brown 4 5-6 13. Totals: 19 18-27 59

Three-point baskets: C 1 (D. Seamon); W 3 (Flask, DeJohn, McNabb)

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