By putting together a difficult non-league schedule, coach Eric Duemler’s objective was to toughen up his Amsterdam girls’ basketball team in preparation for the rigors of the Section II tournament.
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Duemler figured his Lady Rams would take a few hits along the way, but they never did, beating Christ the King, John F. Kennedy, Whitesboro and Kingston twice en route to a 19-0 record.
“If we went 15-5, 16-4, that would have been OK with me, as long as we were ready for the sectionals,” Duemler said. “Going undefeated wasn’t one of our goals. Winning the sectionals was. We’ve been pointing toward this.”
Amsterdam is the co-No. 1 seed with Suburban Council unbeaten Shenendehowa (17-1) in Class AA, while Averill Park (Class A, 15-5),
Hoosic Valley (Class B, 20-0),
Mechanicville (Class CC, 15-3), Schenectady Christian (Class C, 19-0) and Argyle (Class D, 13-5) have also earned No. 1 seeds for the tournament that starts Tuesday and Wednesday.
Amsterdam had the No. 1 seed and a 21-game winning streak last year, and was looking to add to it, before a fourth-quarter dry spell resulted in a semifinal loss to eventual champ Colonie.
Amsterdam also lost the year before in the semifinal round, to Shenendehowa.
“When we were putting our schedule together, it was to get ready for this,” said Duemler, who’ll be striving to guide the state’s top-ranked squad to its first sectional crown. “Some teams look at this as a new season, but for us, it’s a continuation of our season.”
The Lady Rams finish up regular-season play tonight at home against Albany (15-4), and host Shaker (4-16) Wednesday to
begin sectional play. Columbia
(10-9), Bethlehem (18-2) and Schenectady (12-8) are also on Amsterdam’s side of the Class AA bracket.
“Schenectady gave us two tough games, and Columbia took us to overtime at our Christmas tournament,” Duemler said. “Everybody wants to beat us really bad. We’ve gotten everyone’s ‘A’ game. Teams seem to have more energy against us, and they seem to shoot better against us.”
Amsterdam has had several close calls, with eight of its victories coming by 10 points or less. That includes its recent 68-63 overtime win over Catholic Central, which was riding a 10-game victory streak.
“We’ve played high-quality teams. They’ve put us in some adverse situations, every possible situation, and we found ways to win,” Duemler said. “The kids
believe they can do it. No question, being in difficult spots and getting through them has helped their confidence.”
The Lady Rams feature essentially the same cast as last year, led by Gazette All-Area first teamers Megan Gaugler and Brittany
“We’ve got five seniors on the team. We’re pretty experienced, we’ve got size inside, girls who can shoot, and we play defense,” Duemler said. “If someone beats us, they’re going to have to play at a high level. They’re going to have to earn it.”
Shenendehowa was given a first-round bye, and will host the winner of Wednesday’s Colonie (10-10) at Catholic Central (12-8) game in the quarterfinals. Those three teams have combined to win the eight of the last nine Section II large-school championships.
First-time Big 10 champ Bishop Maginn (19-1) and Suburban Council heavyweight Guilderland (17-2) are the co-No. 1 seeds on the boys’ side, followed by Christian Brothers Academy (18-2) and Colonie (12-8).
Bishop Maginn secured its first Section II title in 2007, and reached the state final, and this season has lost only to Jamesville-DeWitt, 68-66.
“Bishop Maginn is a very, very good team, but any team can get beat,” said Mark Treanor, the Section II basketball committee’s Suburban Council representative. “To do it, you’ve got to control tempo, you can’t make mistakes and you’ve got to handle their pressure. It will take 32 minutes of very good basketball.”
Bishop Maginn, ranked No. 4 in the state, will bring a 15-game winning streak and into the tournament.
Other top seeds are Albany Academy (Class A, 16-3), Ichabod Crane (Class B, 18-1), Schenectady Christian (Class CC, 18-1), Rensselaer (Class C, 13-6) and North Warren (Class D, 14-5).
Schenectady Christian is the only defending champ among the five, using its 2007 double-overtime win over Stillwater in the Class CC final as a springboard toward the state final four.
“It’s extremely hard to win a sectional title,” said Saratoga Catholic coach John Catone, whose Saints are seeded No. 6 in Class B. “There’s some luck involved, and you’ve got to be clicking on all cylinders. If you’re not rebounding or hitting foul shots, you’re going to have problems.”
While Albany Academy is the favorite in Class A based on its
17-0 record against Section II teams, No. 2 Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons (13-7), No. 3 Averill Park (12-8), No. 4 Mohonasen (11-9),
No. 5 Scotia-Glenville (13-6) and No. 6 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (9-10) all have the talent to make a significant run.
“If Gloversville is a No. 9 seed, I think that speaks for the strength of the bracket,” Treanor said. “It’s going to be very competitive. There are several teams capable of winning this thing.”
Ballston Spa, Schalmont, Corinth, Galway and Mayfield are among the teams that have opted not to compete in the sectionals, which have first-round games Tuesday and Wednesday.
The lone play-in game is Saturday in Class AA, with Albany going to LaSalle.