A few minutes into the fourth quarter, Niskayuna had trimmed its 14-point deficit to five.
“We needed someone to step up,” Saratoga Springs freshman guard Kerry Flaherty said. “We wanted to put them away.”
That someone turned out to be her, as Flaherty swished a 3-pointer to end Niskayuna’s run. Just over a minute later, Flaherty connected again from deep, providing Saratoga Springs with some much-needed breathing room in the first round of the Section II Class AA girls’ basketball tournament.
“Those were big shots,” Niskayuna head coach Sarah Neely said. “We lost our momentum after those.”
After its poor start to the fourth quarter, Saratoga Springs recovered to advance with a 63-51 victory. Flaherty scored 11 of her team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, while Niskayuna senior guard Deirdre Schutzman led all scorers with 21.
Niskayuna (7-14, No. 11) and Saratoga Springs (13-8, No. 6) played within a few points of each other through late in the third quarter. The first quarter alone included six lead changes.
“Niskayuna came to play,” said Saratoga Springs head coach Robin Chudy, whose team had beaten Niskayuna 48-37 during the regular season. “They were here, and wanted to win. We had to step up our game.”
Saratoga Springs had a five-point lead at halftime, and play stayed relatively even through most of the third quarter. But with 1:34 to go before the final period, Niskayuna sophomore center Olivia Owens picked up her fourth foul and had to go to the bench — and Saratoga Springs went to work in the absence of the Silver Warriors’ top post threat, a national-level college prospect. With Owens off the floor, Saratoga Springs expanded its lead to 14 points heading into the final stanza with a 9-2 run.
“We fell apart at different times,” Niskayuna’s Schutzman said.
Chudy’s team keyed its defensive effort around slowing Owens. Senior forward Maddie Chudy — the coach’s daughter, who finished with nine points — fronted Owens and received ample help from her teammates in keeping Owens to a 12-point night.
“We knew she was going to get some points, but we wanted to keep [her] to a minimum,” coach Chudy said of Owens, who also had 11 rebounds. “But Niskayuna had other girls step up.”
Mostly, the help came from Schutzman, who scored 16 of her points in the course of a 6-for-6 shooting effort in the first half. The senior finished her high school basketball career with a few of her best individual efforts, scoring 17 or more points in three of her final four games.
“I found my stroke, which was great because it helped my team,” she said. “I just wish we could have won this one.”
But Flaherty kept that from happening with her scoring exploits in the fourth quarter. After stopping Niskayuna’s 9-0 run to start the quarter with her 3, Flaherty hit another one off a pass from eighth-grade guard Dolly Cairns — who had 15 points — and scored five more points in the final couple minutes.
Saratoga Springs advances to face No. 3 Albany Monday, while Niskayuna’s season came to a close. The Silver Warriors’ crunch-time lineup included a pair of sophomores — Owens and guard Ali Greco — that Neely said will help provide the building blocks for Niskayuna as it heads into the offseason and begins to look to the 2016-17 season.
“There’s a lot of good young players that are coming up that will need to step up for us,” Neely said. “I’m losing six seniors, so there’s certainly spots to fill.”
Schutzman 8-3-21, Owens 4-3-12, Souky 2-8-12, Black 1-0-2, Greco 1-0-2, T. Green 1-0-2. Totals: 17-14-51.
Flaherty 6-5-20, Cairns 4-6-15, Chudy 3-3-9, Vamvalis 2-0-6, Elliott 2-1-5, Barringer 2-1-3, Reilly 1-1-3, Patnode 1-0-2. Totals: 22-17-63.
Niskayuna 14 10 10 18 — 51
Saratoga Springs 16 13 19 15 — 63
Three-point goals: Schutzman 2, Owens, Flaherty 3, Vamvalis 2, Cairns.
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Categories: High School Sports