It was the second closest game the Newburgh Free Academy Goldbacks have played this season.
The closest was a one-point win over James I. O’Neill on Dec. 14, 2023. This time, however, the Goldbacks were on the short end.
Despite leading for most of the way, and by a point with 55 seconds left in the game, the Saugerties Sawyers took the lead with 1:42 left in the game and held off the Goldbacks, 64-59, on Wednesday at Newburgh Free Academy’s Main Campus.
“I had a great feeling prior to yesterday’s practice,” Newburgh coach Arturo Santana said. “I said, ‘I think we have a good chance if we can rebound, and if we can take care of the basketball, we definitely had a chance to win.”
The Goldbacks certainly gave themselves an opportunity.
Entering the fourth quarter trailing by three points, T.T. Burden knocked down a pair of free throws to pull the Goldbacks to within a point. That stretch was actually all Burden, as she went on a 9-0 run to give the Goldbacks a 56-51 lead.
Burden finished with a game-high 45 points, even though Saugerties swarmed her every time she touched the ball.
“It does not matter,” Santana said. “She’ll go right by them. The girls do the best they can to set up screens, but T.T. is our offensive player and our defensive player. She does it all.”
This game Burden had some help as Amelia Turner knocked down 3 3-pointers on her way to 11 points.
“She deserves a little admiration because she’s been playing her best games the last two or three games now,” Santana said. “She’s been awesome, and our bench is playing well. Hopefully, we can learn from this game and keep getting better.”
Samantha Graham led the Sawyers with 19 points and Natalie Tucker knocked down four 3-pointers on her way to 14 points. Helene Kerr and Nicolette Rifenburg had 11 each.
“Natalie Tucker can shoot the lights out,” Santana said. “She played on the BCANYs, so I was very aware of her since I coached her for that week (in the summer).”
Ultimately, it was Tucker who gave the Sawyers the lead for good, hitting a layup with 1:42 remaining in the game to give her team a 58-57 lead. Rifenburg hit a 3-pointer, her second in as many minutes, to give the Sawyers a 61-57 lead.
Burden knocked down two free throws to pull the Goldbacks to within two with 55 seconds go, but they turned the ball over and weren’t able to grab necessary offensive rebounds to maintain possession.
Graham hit 3 of 4 free throws to widen the Saugerties lead to five points.
“We played 32 minutes,” Santana said. “If you just have some grit, some passion, some energy and you are not afraid to make mistakes these things happen, and you’re in the game.”