CLIFTON PARK — With the Shenendehowa girls’ basketball team, you’re certain to see a load of hustle and smart play. As for the scoring chores, you just never know whose turn it’s going to be.
“Every night, it’s someone different,” Plainsmen coach Joe Murphy said after Thursday’s 59-42 Section II Class AA quarterfinal win over Niskayuna. “We’re very lucky to have the depth we have.”
Cat Almeida scored the most, and 3-point specialist Kaitlyn Watrobski delivered clutch baskets in a pair of significant runs as the Plainsmen beat the Silver Warriors in what was their most difficult of three meetings this season with their Suburban Council counterpart.
“I told the girls we’re the underdog and no one is expecting anything,” Niskayuna coach Sarah Neely said. “I didn’t want it to be easy. We wanted to make it a game.”
Niskayuna (No. 8 seed, 10-12) did that, yet in the end, Shenendehowa (No. 1, 19-2) had a little too much punch in extending its win streak to 18 games.
Niskayuna fell to the state’s ninth-ranked team earlier in the season by 61-31 and 62-42 scores.
“That’s why they’re Shenendehowa. They have a lot of different weapons,” Neely said. “It’s like a revolving door.”
The 6-foot-5 Almeida had 18 points on a variety of inside moves, and Watrobski scored 13 with four 3-point baskets, one of them kick-starting a first-half run, another capping a second-half run and another making it 51-38 to all but seal the victory with 3:40 left.
Simone Walker and Meghan Huerter both added seven points, and Anna Milham and Bella Stuart both chipped in with six.
“The game plan was to establish Cat inside,” said Murphy, who got eight first-quarter points from his senior center. “Get her going early. Work inside-out basketball.”
Watrobski was the main benefactor as the junior guard equaled a season-high with her 13 points, and reached a season-high with her four hoops from beyond the arc.
“I’ve been on this team since I was a freshmen, and this is the most depth we’ve had,” Watrobski said. “If Meg is off or I am off, we’ve got others who can score points.”
Niskayuna had momentum when Olivia Olsen blocked two shots at one end and Emma Souky sank a jumper at the other to get the Silver Warriors within 19-18 late in the second quarter. Watrobski answered Souky’s hoop with a 3-pointer to begin a closing 10-0 spurt that included a runner and a buzzer-beating 3 by Walker.
“Making the extra pass. Getting offensive rebounds. Defense,” Watrobski said. “When we made our runs, all of those things came together.”
Three straight baskets by Olsen had Niskayuna trailing 33-27 in the third quarter when Shenendehowa strung 11 points, including a starting 3 by Almeida, and a finishing four-point play by Watrobski.
“When you play them, you never know who is going to step up,” Neely said. “She [Watrobski] definitely did. She hit the important shots.”
Niskayuna began the third quarter with a 9-4 run before Shenendehowa’s 11-0 response.
“We focused on defensive intensity, and it showed,” Neely said. “Our press rattled them a little bit. Our effort was outstanding.”
Olsen led Niskayuna with 13 points, and her frontline mate, Tyra O’Meally-Turnbull, had nine points and six rebounds despite foul trouble.
“Credit Niskayuna,” Murphy said. “They came to play, and we needed that. This was a good game for us before Colonie. We expect a tough, physical game with Colonie.”
Shenendehowa and Colonie (No. 4, 15-6) will meet in a semifinal Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Hudson Valley Community College. It was in the semifinals a year ago when Shenendehowa was derailed by Bethlehem and saw its hopes for a third straight Section II title dashed.
“We feel we’re capable of going far this year,” said Shenendehowa senior Jess Wagoner, a defensive standout whose stat line included four rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. “We want to win the section after what happened last year, but we’ve got to get by Colonie first. Everyone is going to give it everything we have.”
Souky 3-0-7, Owens 1-0-2, Hamilton 1-1-3, Prain 3-0-8, Olsen 5-3-13, O’Meally-Turnbull 4-0-9. Totals: 17-4-42.
Walker 2-2-7, Aleida 7-3-18, Wagoner 1-0-2, Milham 3-0-6, Watrobski 4-1-13, M. Huerter 2-2-7, Stuart 2-2-6. Totals: 21-10-59.
Niskayuna 10 8 15 9 — 42
Shenendehowa 16 13 15 15 — 59
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.
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