AMSTERDAM — The Amsterdam girls’ basketball team would relish the opportunity to play some teams from like-size schools later in the winter season.
That could happen. Then again, it might not.
“It’s great to be out here playing for anything,” Amsterdam senior Andie Gannon said Wednesday during a break from the team’s first practice since late February of last year. “It was awful before. A while ago we were sitting at home looking at college teams.”
Amsterdam is among five Montgomery County schools that last week received the OK to commence with “high” risk winter sports, but as a caveat, those teams can only compete against each other until the counties’ seven-day rolling average of coronavirus positivity rate reaches 4% or below. It stood at 7% Wednesday and has been gradually decreasing.
So the plan in place for now is for the Montgomery County group of Amsterdam, Fonda-Fultonville, Fort Plain, Canajoharie and Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville to play each other twice with masks on and without fans in attendance.
Amsterdam, a Class A Foothills Council member with a trio of college-bound scholarship players in Antonia May (University of Maryland-Baltimore County), Jackie Stanavich (Mercy College) and Gannon (Roberts Wesleyan), will be favored to win each of those games, but has no intention of rubbing it in.
“We’re excited to have an opportunity, No. 1,” Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler said of playing those smaller schools, all of them Western Athletic Conference members. “We’ll respect that opportunity. Hopefully we can help those teams we’re playing against.”
Just getting a chance to play is something the Rams are not taking for granted. They realize some other Section II basketball teams will not play at all this winter, while others are still awaiting to learn their fate.
“We’re lucky. Very lucky,” said Amsterdam junior Sydney Hoefs, who was kept out of Wednesday’s workout due to a knee injury. “It’s one of those things you have to be grateful for.”
“It seems so surreal that it’s happening,” Stanavich said. “Now it feels like we’re practicing with a purpose.”
The Amsterdam girls looked like they were preparing for a championship game the way they flew up and down the court Wednesday and with the intensity they displayed while doing drills. Though there will be no league or Section II title to go after this season, there could be some awfully competitive out-of-county games if the coronavirus numbers continue to fall.
“I’ve talked to many coaches who want to play us,” Duemler said. “If we can get down in the next few weeks, we’re hoping to set some games up.”
Averill Park and Troy are two Rensselaer County teams Amsterdam would enjoy a chance to play. Amsterdam lost to Troy in last season’s Class A Section II quarterfinals, and lost to Averill Park in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Class A finals.
Rensselaer County is at 4.3% for its seven-day rolling average of coronavirus positivity rate and would need to be at 4% or below for Amsterdam to compete against any of its schools.
“Since there’s no sectionals, it would be interesting at the end of the year to play Averill Park or Troy,” Duemler said.
“That would be a great opportunity considering our circumstances,” Stanavich said of a possible matchup with Averill Park.
Gannon added: “That would be a dream. That would make Coach the happiest coach in the world.”
Before last week’s go-ahead call from Montgomery County, Duemler was holding out hope his team and others would get a chance to play and led a social media campaign that pushed for it to happen.
“It’s good to be on the court,” Duemler said. “We’ve gone through some ups and downs where we thought we were going to play and then we were not going to play. It was like a rollercoaster.”
“Every single day, Coach would ask us to retweet this, retweet that,” Gannon said of Duemler’s let-them-play efforts. “Every day, Coach would be hustling and giving us hope.”
On Wednesday, two more counties within the greater Capital Region lowered their respective seven-day rolling averages of coronavirus positivity rate enough to allow for “high” risk winter sports – basketball, cheerleading, ice hockey and wrestling – to start with full-contact practices after they had been on hold for months. Saratoga checked in at 4% and Schoharie was at 3.9%, as those counties joined Schenectady (3.7%) and Warren (3.8%) in the group of counties that are below that threshold in counties requiring that benchmark to be met.
While Montgomery and Rensselaer are above 4% for their respective seven-day rolling averages of coronavirus positivity rate, those counties did not set a benchmark to be met for that statistic in order to allow “high” risk sports.