DELANSON — As his team walked off the court following its 84-49 win Tuesday night against Duanesburg, Cambridge girls’ basketball coach Bob Phillips remarked to a couple of folks milling around the scorer’s table how the team he’d just coached against reminded him of a team from a few years ago.
That squad: his team.
Duanesburg’s program, Phillips said, is in the exact spot Cambridge was three years ago, when it was on the verge of starting to dominate Section II Class C girls’ basketball.
“It’s kind of eerily similar,” he said. “In a good way. I’m happy for them. Those kids have worked their tails off. They’re going to be good. They already are good, and they’re going to get better.”
Duanesburg freshman Allison O’Hanlon certainly hopes Phillips is right.
“They’re like that top dog right now,” O’Hanlon said of Cambridge. “We want to be that. Once they graduate, that’s what we aspire to be like. We want to be winners, and that’s what they are. They’re winners.”
Cambridge is the clear standard-bearer in Section II Class C girls’ basketball at the moment. Led by twin standouts Sophie and Lilly Phillips, the team has won the last three area titles in the classification, captured the state championship in 2019 and looked to be well on the way to a repeat in 2020 before the state playoffs were canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. This year, there will be no area or state playoffs during the abbreviated basketball season.
In another world, Cambridge likely would have been well on its way to a state championship three-peat in 2021. Instead, Bob Phillips’ team traveled to Duanesburg on Tuesday night to play a long-awaited season-opener against a young Eagles team that starts four freshmen and has ambitions of forging a similar dynasty over the next several years.
Playing for the first time since its Section II title win over Maple Hill last March 7, Cambridge showed its pedigree early, racing to a 24-6 lead in the first quarter.
The lead remained in double figures for nearly the entire remainder of the game, though a 10-0 Duanesburg (2-1) run to close the first quarter immediately followed Cambridge’s red-hot start and gave the Eagles a point of pride on a night where coach Chris Herron’s team understood exactly the kind of juggernaut it had faced.
“That’s the measuring stick,” said Duanesburg coach Chris Herron, whose team was coming off a pair of convincing wins against Mekeel Christian and Maple Hill to start the season. “That’s kind of the team we’ve been wanting to play. They came in and did everything we expected them to do. We talked about it, to just go play and see where we’re at.”
“That’s what our program is about,” said O’Hanlon, who led Duanesburg with 19 points and nine rebounds. “You can hit us in the face, but we’re going to come back twice as hard and still try to make it a game.”
Sophie Phillips, who has signed to play at the University of Rhode Island next year, led Cambridge with 27 points. Lilly Phillips, a UAlbany signee, added 23 points.
“It’s just a blessing that we can finally get out here with the team,” Lilly Phillips said. “For sure, it was rough to lose those two [state championship] opportunities, but we get to play now.”
“We’re just going to take the year and play the games that we have,” Sophie Phillips added.
In addition to O’Hanlon’s 19 points, fellow freshman Hannah Mulhern chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds for Duanesburg.
Freshmen scored 43 out of 49 points for Duanesburg, which is playing without junior 1,000-point scorer Madison Meyer due to a broken foot.
Meyer’s return next year and the continued development of the Eagles’ talented young core group has Herron hopeful that his team can emerge as the heir apparent to Cambridge.
“That’s kind of what we’re pushing to,” he said, “and we’ll get there.”
They’ve already made believers out of Cambridge.
“They’re really good now,” Sophie Phillips said. “I can’t even imagine what they’ll be like in a couple of years. They’ll be even better.”
Cambridge 24 24 22 14 — 84
Duanesburg 16 9 18 6 — 49
Cambridge scoring: S. Phillips 10-4-27, L. Phillips 9-3-23, S. Nolan 5-0-10, R. Nolan 2-0-6, Epler 2-0-5, Daniels 1-3-5, Prouty 1-0-3, Price 1-0-3, Crandall 1-0-2. Duanesburg scoring: O’Hanlon 7-3-19, Mulhern 5-0-11, Moses 3-0-7, Capron 2-0-6, Meyer 2-0-4. Scoring totals: Cambridge 32-10-84, Duanesburg 20-3-49.