The established star was better than ever, and the big, quiet kid blossomed.
Together, seniors Sheila Dixon and Antonia Williams anchored the finest stretch in the history of Schenectady girls’ basketball, and in doing so led Section II’s elite class of 2009 on The Daily Gazette All-Area team.
“Sheila’s desire to do well is higher than any player I’ve had, whether it’s tying a shoe, academics or basketball,” Schenectady coach Carol Lupo said of the four-year varsity player and repeat first-team star. “She got everyone to follow along with her. She really hung in when times were tough, and led the others to the watering hole.”
Williams followed well, grabbed a big gulp and gradually emerged into a dominant force down low to complement Dixon’s creative work on the perimeter as the Patriots raced to their first Big 10 championship, first sectional semifinal game and a school-record 19 victories.
The team captains were instrumental in the Patriots’ push to the final four, with Williams scoring 19 points in a 54-50 Class AA first-round win against Shaker, and Dixon generating 17 points and five steals in a 53-39 quarterfinal victory over Niskayuna.
“It came from building confidence. She did not start off with a lot of that, but by doing things right once, twice, three times, it developed,” Lupo said of Williams, the Pats’ 6-foot center. “When she began to have success, no one was more surprised than her. It was a new experience on the basketball court. She was always athletic, and this year, she was effective.”
The second-year varsity player finished with flash, scoring 18 points in the Big 10’s 72-70 Exceptional Seniors win over the Suburban Council. It was the 18th time Williams scored in double digits this season, while as a junior role player, she accomplished the feat only five times.
“Have I ever had anyone like Antonia? No. She’s a kid, when she was younger, who could have gone either way down the tracks, and she’s a testament to what you can do with hard work and support,” said Lupo.
Williams averaged 12.9 points and 7.5 rebounds during Schenectady’s breakthrough season, and Dixon averaged 13.7 points, 5.6 boards and 4.2 assists from her new point guard position.
“She asked to play point guard this year. She did not play there last year, and I thought it would be a good experience because she might do that in college,” Lupo said of her Brown University-bound senior leader. “She needs a lot of tools in her bag when she goes off to Rhode Island.”
Dixon flashed, dashed and flourished in her new role with the up-tempo Patriots. In the greatest individual effort in Patriots’ history, the fourth- team all-state selection had 35 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a 93-92 overtime win against Amsterdam. Those totals included 10 overtime points, and five three-point baskets.
“She knew her role had to widen this year. She accepted the challenge, and it was a key to our success,” Lupo said. “Last year, she liked to catch and shoot, but this year, her sense of when to shoot, pass or drive was much, much better. She’s explosive and she can score, and at the same time, she was so generous with the ball.”
After scoring six and eight points in Schenectady’s first two games, the ball began to drop more often for Williams, who hit double digits in 16 of the team’s next 17 outings. The 10th team all-state pick with a smooth turnaround jumper capped her run with a career-high 22 points in a 72-53 win over Albany that clinched the Big 10 title.
“She was scoring between 15 to 20 points in the second half of the season and getting double-digit rebounds in just about every game,” Lupo said of her Big 10 first-team all-star, who is headed to Skidmore College. “Her defense got better, too. When she gets low and wide with those long arms, she can be really effective.”
Williams blocked a team-high 48 shots and added 34 steals, while Dixon amassed a school-record 83 steals, including 10 in a 53-50 win against Catholic Central. Her two steals in the final minute, after Williams converted a key three-point play, preserved the playoff win against Shaker.
“They were our leaders. Our captains, and they led us to a lot of success, but I’m just as proud of their academic work and their conduct off the court,” said Lupo. “They are positive kids. I have high expectations of the way my players represent our school and community, and they go way beyond.”
Megan Olsen was in attack mode, whether Bethlehem had the basketball or not, and propelled the Eagles to the brink of a state Class AA championship with her scoring, steals and desire.
“She’s in such good physical condition. She didn’t take a second off,” Eagles coach Mark Nealon said of the two-time Gazette first-team star. “She played unthinkable defense, and she pushed the ball. She logged a lot of minutes, and at the end of a game, she was still going strong.”
The 5-10 point guard averaged 14.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.6 steals during Bethlehem’s run to the state final. The Suburban Council and Section II Class AA tournament MVP scored in double digits in all but four games, and piled up a season-high 27 points in a 68-45 playoff win against Catholic Central.
Olsen scored 21 points in two other games, including her last, in a 74-58 loss to Copiague in the state title contest. That performance boosted her career points total to 1,023, and gave her a spot on the all-tourney team.
“We moved her back to point guard this year, and the reason she still scored so many points was because of her defense,” Nealon said. “She was able to get the ball to the basket, and if she wasn’t scoring off a steal, she was getting fouled and going to the line. On nights when the jumper wasn’t falling, she still scored.”
With smarts and aggressive moves, Olsen made it to the line 197 times and hit 146 free throws (74 percent). In the Catholic Central game, she went 14-for-17 from the stripe, and in a follow-up 55-42 sectional semifinal win over Schenectady, Olsen went 11-for-12 as part of a 19-point, 10-rebound performance.
“She really improved her ability to get to the basket and finish,” Nealon said of the four-year varsity starter. “When she had the ball, we knew something positive was going to come out of it.”
Nicole Adach’s do-it-all ability helped Mohonasen win it all, and then some.
Behind their versatile 6-0 senior forward, the Mighty Warriors won their first Section II championship in seven years, and followed with their first regional victory in program history en route to the state Class A final four.
“I would put her in the category of a great all-around player. Some may be quicker and some may shoot a little better, but as far as the whole package, I have not seen a better player,” said first-year Mohonasen coach Paul Brosious. “She’s unbelievable. Then you throw in the leadership she gave us and the burning desire to win on top of it.”
Adach excelled in some of Mohonasen’s biggest games, collecting 17 points and 11 rebounds in a 44-39 victory over Averill Park in the Section II final, and 14 points, 10 rebounds and three steals in a 50-32 regional win against Mexico. She netted 20 points in a 68-56 state semifinal loss to Albertus Magnus, boosting her four-year career point total to 1,106.
Mohonasen’s second 1,000-point career scorer was named the Section II tournament most valuable player, and made the state tourney all-star team.
“Her little pull-up jumper in the paint is as good as I’ve seen.,” said Brosious. “She also got a lot of points on offensive rebounds and by creating shots with one-on-one moves.”
Adach expanded her arsenal this season and dropped in 30 three-point baskets after netting nine of them as a junior and sophomore. She hit four threes as part of her season-high 25 points in a win over Guilderland, and nailed a trio of threes in a 24-point outing against Ballston Spa.
“She really developed her outside game this year, and that loosened everything up for her and the rest of the team,” Brosious said. “When they came out to defend her, she could drive the lane or distribute the ball to her teammates.”
Adach averaged 13.2 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists for the first-time Suburban Council South Division champs, who won 17 consecutive games down the stretch and finished with a No. 3 state ranking.
“She did it all for us,” Brosious said of the Suburban Council first-team all-star and second- team all-state selection, who will be joining Olsen at St. Michael’s in Vermont. “She scored and handled the ball in our press break. At the other end, she recognized things, took charges, blocked shots and helped so well. Her value cannot be measured only in numbers.”
In her first varsity game as an eighth-grade JV call-up, Katie Duma sank three three-point baskets in a sectional semifinal win against Lansingburgh. In a regional semifinal game that 2005-06 season, she nailed three more long-distance shots and finished with 11 points in a victory over Christian Brothers Academy of Syracuse.
Averill Park coach Sean Organ has been calling Duma’s number ever since, and game after game, she’s delivered with authority.
“She’s a driver. She’s strong going to the basket, but she also had 34 threes for us this year,” Organ said of the two-time all-state first team selection. “She can shoot it. No question about it.”
Duma displayed her accuracy by averaging 16.9 points per game, and put up double digits in 20 of the 21 games she competed in. The junior guard/forward reached the career 1,000-point mark in an overtime loss to Shenendehowa, netting 17 in that contest, and ended the campaign with 1,090.
“For a player to reach 1,000 midway through their junior year, and in the Suburban Council no less, I think it’s remarkable,” Organ said.
Remarkable is a word often used to describe the 5-10 Duma, who helped Averill Park win its second Section II Class A crown as a sophomore, and led the Warriors to another title-game appearance this season.
“She’s definitely a multidimensional player,” Organ said . “She led us in rebounding and was up there in assists, and defensively, we put her up against some of the best players in the area. We also use her to anchor our presses. She’s very good at anticipating and has those long arms.”
Duma averaged four steals, four assists and seven rebounds to go along with her point production, which included five games with over 20 points.
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