TROY — Balance, depth, perimeter shooting and an inside presence makes this Shenendehowa girls’ basketball team extremely difficult to scout.
Once again, the Plainsmen shared the wealth with several different heroes making an impact during their 62-54 victory over Saratoga Springs in the Section II Class AA championship game Saturday afternoon at Hudson Valley Community College’s McDonough Sports Complex.
Top-seeded Shen (21-2) led by as many as 17 points, and then held off a furious Blue Streaks’ comeback bid to claim its second sectional title in the last three years and third in the last four seasons.
The Plainsmen knocked down nine 3-pointers, but no individual sharp-shooter was dominant as sectional MVP Cat Almeida, Meghan Huerter, Ann Milham and Kaitlyn Watrobski each nailed at least one shot from behind the arc.
Shen needed its balance to offset a fantastic game by the 17-6 Saratoga Springs’ dynamic duo of junior Dolly Cairns and senior Kerry Flaherty, who combined for 45 points. Cairns poured in a game-high 27 points, including 11-for-13 from the line.
“They all feel great, they really do,” Shenendehowa coach Joseph Murphy said about the Plainsmen’s latest titles in a long line of girls’ basketball crowns. “To see our team evolve was really special. [Kaitlin] Watrobski stepped up in the second half, and Cat [Almeida] was great all night. We never know who will be that person.
Defensively, we did a great job, but their backcourt still got 85 to 90 percent of their points. Their two guards are really good. We did a great job of cutting down one of them, but they still got their points.”
Murphy said he never felt confident, even when his team pulled away to that 17-pont lead (52-35) early in the fourth quarter after Watrobski and Huerter hit back-to-back treys to open the period.
“There’s never a sigh of relief when you’re playing Saratoga. They’ve got kids who can score from any place on the court,” he said.
Three-pointers helped the Plainsmen offset constant foul trouble in the second half, as the Blue Streaks were in the bonus for much of the final two periods. “There were a bunch of threes tonight. Kaitlin hit that one in transition that helped us build up that big lead. That was a big-time shot,” Murphy said. “Different kids hit threes throughout the night.”
Almeida, a 6-foot-5 senior post player, produced 10 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 1:20 remaining.
“I was definitely more nervous this year than in my sophomore year,” Almeida said, comparing her two last two championship seasons. “I had higher expectations this year, and it was a little rough in the beginning of the season. But we all had the skills, and everyone worked so hard. It’s so surreal to me. This morning, I’m eating cereal and not holding this [MVP plaque]. It’s all because of my teammates. All of them played their hearts out.”
Almeida agreed that Shen’s balance makes the Plainsmen very tough to figure out defensively.
‘This group, honestly, everyone is equal,” she said. “You can pass anybody the ball, and anyone can score. There are no liabilities.”
Shenendehowa advances to regional competition in hopes of securing its first New York State Public School Athletic Association crown since 1999.
“We haven’t thought about [states] yet. We take everything game by game. It’s like a ladder, step by step,” Almeida added. “We’ll have a celebration today, and then get back to practice. I think [their balance] is one of our strengths. You never now who will step up. If you shut down somebody, somebody else steps up.”
AVERILL PARK WINS ‘A’ TITLE
Averill Park won its sixth straight Section II Class A — and its ninth crown in the last 10 seasons — with a 50-41 victory over Queensbury
MVP Kelsey Wood scored 14 points and grabbed 14 points for the Warriors. Hope Sullivan scored 13 points, and Hailey Ballard added 10 for the Spartans.
SHENENDEHOWA 62, SARATOGA SPRINGS 54
Flaherty 5-5-18, Cairns 7-11-27, Lafountain 0-1-1, Chudy 0-4-4, Ray 1-0-2, Lahart 1-0-2. Totals: 14-21-54.
Almeida 4-1-10, M. Huerter 2-1-7, Milham 6-0-15, Wagoner 1-1-3, J. Huerter 2-3-7, Stuart 1-0-2, Walker 2-1-5, Watrobski 4-2-13. Totals: 22-9-62.
Saratoga 15 10 8 21 — 54
Shenendehowa 12 19 15 16 — 62
AVERILL PARK 50, QUEENSBURY 41
Duffy 0-2-2, Ballard 2-6-10, Ray 4-1-9, Doin 2-1-7, Sullivan 4-5-13. Totals: 12-15-41.
K. Wood 5-4-14, A. Wood 1-4-6, Jankovic 4-0-9, Kelley 3-1-7, Lombardi 1-2-5, Gelder 0-2-2, Morgan 3-0-7. Totals: 17-13-50.
Queensbury 11 6 12 12 — 41
Averill Park 16 11 7 16 — 50