Perfection was not the dream for the Amsterdam girls’ basketball team, but the Rams wouldn’t mind staying undefeated for at least two more games to accomplish their ultimate goal.
Sectional basketball brackets
To view sectional basketball brackets, click on the appropriate link:
Amsterdam puts its 22-game winning streak on the line tonight at 6 when the Rams meet Bethlehem in a Section II Class AA semifinal at Hudson Valley Community College. In the other semifinal at 7:30, Shenendehowa (19-2) squares off against Albany (17-5).
Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler knew his team would be good, but instead of putting
together a soft non-league schedule, he loaded up against perennial state powers like Christ the King and JFK.
“We went into the season putting together a schedule that we felt would give us three or four losses going into the sectionals,” Duemler said. “We never anticipated being undefeated at this stage. In fact, I’m shocked that it happened.”
Unfortunately, when a team is undefeated
going into the playoffs, the pressure only increases, but Duemler took steps to make it easier on his players.
“Once we beat Christ the King, the pressure mounted. People were bringing their ‘A’ game against us, but we kept stressing to the girls to take it one game at a time. The Bethlehem Central game is just No. 23 on our schedule,” he said. “We’ve been consistent with that theory, and all the girls, especially our leaders, have bought into that theory. In fact, it really started last season, late in the year.”
Taking it one game at a time is probably the oldest cliche in the book, but Duemler’s practice sessions guaranteed his players wouldn’t get too caught up in their undefeated record.
“Once in a while during practice, I would ask the players who has the bobble head, meaning a big head, and if someone had it, they had to run extra. That got the point across,” he said. “Our players are level-headed and goal-oriented. They know that they haven’t accomplished their goals yet, and that being undefeated right now doesn’t really mean anything.”
Duemler said that his Rams really only had two goals this season, to win the Big 10 championship, which they’ve already done, and to capture the sectional championship. They need two victories to accomplish their second goal.
“The next two games will be very hard,” Duemler said. “Bethlehem reminds me of our team. They play multiple defenses, they pick you up three-quarters court, they are tall, and they are pretty athletic. They beat you into mistakes. They also have a good shooter in Meg Olsen. Looking at their team is like looking at a mirror.”
The Eagles’ only two losses this season have come to Shenendehowa. Olsen averages 13.5 points per game.
“This is the kind of game where the team that executes the best will win,” said Duemler. “Getting an early lead will be important, as well as taking care of the basketball. We’ll mix things up. We’ve got good senior leadership with several players who have been in big games at HVCC before.”
The 1-2 scoring punch of Megan Gaugler (16.1 ppg) and Brittany Stahura (13.0 ppg) gives the Rams plenty of firepower, but they also get steady play from senior Ashley Welytok, senior Megan Power and Michela Ottati.
Shenendehowa‘s senior-dominated team will try to keep its Section II winning streak intact. After losing to Niskayuna, 41-33, in the season opener, Shen ripped off 18 consecutive wins, including 15 over Section II opponents. But the Plainsmen scheduled a tough tournament at Lockport to close the season. They beat
No. 1-ranked Pioneer, 58-53, but lost to Nichols, 66-54. Shen then defeated Catholic Central, 52-46, in the Class AA quarterfinals.
“We scheduled that tournament because the Suburban Council tournament fell early in the schedule the last couple of years. We knew that if we had a bye, we’d have a week off before the sectionals. We didn’t want to schedule a scrimmage against a potential opponent, so we played in the tournament. It’s served us well in the past,” Strube said.
“We got that tournament flavor right at the end of the regular season, plus we got away together for 48 hours as a team. It was a great experience.”
Barb Shea is the top scorer for Shenendehowa at 13.3 ppg, but the balanced lineup also includes seniors Megan Goodwin, Serita Holland, Carey Turner and Kim Woodard.
“This is the first time in my 29 years of coaching that I’ve had five senior starters,” said Strube, who has 510 career wins and nine sectional titles to his credit.
“One of the good things about our team is that we don’t rattle. Our strength is that we play together as a team. Our players have a lot of confidence now. Last year, some of the players would look over at the bench because they thought I would take them out. This year, they still look over at the bench, but they have a smirk on their face.”
Albany, which dropped a pair of games to Amsterdam and one game each to Averill Park, Catholic Central and Bishop Maginn, was blown out only twice, both times to Amsterdam. Their other three losses were by a combined nine points.
Chelsy Moore (12.9 ppg) and Shenekwa Stewart (12.4 ppg) are the scoring leaders for Albany.
“Albany is probably the most athletic team in the section,” said Strube. “They are very good up front, and their point guard makes very good decisions.
“I think all four teams in the semifinals are very good this year. We could have blowouts or overtime games. You never know. This is the first time in a while that all four top seeds advanced to the semifinals.”
The semifinal winners advance to Saturday’s championship game at HVCC 5:15 p.m.
There are also semifinals scheduled tonight in four other classes.
In Class A at Colonie, 8-13
Mohonasen battles 9-12 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake at 6 p.m., while 16-5 Averill Park meets 14-7 Holy Names at 7:30.
In Class B at Saratoga Springs High School, the Bluehawks of Hudson take on the 18-4 Tigers of Cohoes at 6, followed by Hoosic Valley vs. Ichabod Crane (14-7) at 7:30.
Hudson Falls hosts the Class CC semifinals, with 10-12 Voorheesville playing 14-7 Watervliet at 6 and 17-3 Mechanicville taking on 16-6 Lake George at 7:30.
Undefeated Schenectady Christian (21-0) and 9-13 Duanesburg square off in the 7:30 Class C semifinal at 7:30 at Ballston Spa, right after Maple Hill meets 12-9 Middleburgh at 6.
The Class D semifinals pitting Hartford and Sharon Springs and Argyle against Heatly, have been rescheduled for Thursday at Adirondack Community College.
Also scheduled tonight are the boys’ Class C semifinals at Shenendehowa. Hadley-Luzerne and Germantown tangle in the 6 p.m. game, followed by Rensselaer vs. Maple Hill at 7:30. Both games were originally scheduled for Tuesday, but were postponed because of the snowstorm.