TROY — The Averill Park and Albany Academy girls’ basketball teams will take the court for back-to-back games at Hudson Valley Community College on Saturday afternoon, competing for regional championships in their respective classifications.
When they do, Averill Park head coach Sean Organ will lead his Warriors in the Class A game, while his sister, Colleen Organ Guse, will take the court with the Bears as the assistant coach in the Class B game.
“I know when they get together for family dinners, there’s a lot of basketball being talked about,” Mark Bubniak, Averill Park’s Athletic Director and Section II girls’ basketball coordinator, said of the sibling coaches. “It’s really cool that both Albany Academy and us, with Sean and Colleen, are able to represent Section II and advance to the regional finals, and especially so that we get to play back-to-back and they can watch a little bit of each other’s games.”
The Warriors’ 62-49 win over Catholic Central last Friday secured the program’s ninth consecutive Section II Class A championship. The regional game on Saturday at 1:45 p.m., against Section III’s Indian River (22-2), will begin Averill Park’s defense of its 2022 state title.
“He’s a veteran at winning over there at Averill Park; that’s what they do,” Guse said of her brother, who took over the program at Averill Park in 2005. “I believe this is his 14th Class A title, so playing in sub-regionals and regionals is something it seems like they get to do every year. Being able to be a part of that this year, with Albany Academy, it’s a great feeling to be able to share that with Sean this year.”
While they will be taking the court in back-to-back games at McDonough Sports Complex, Organ and Guse do have a history coaching against each other.
“My wife, Jessica, and my daughter, Kiera, went over there to watch them in their championship game, the night before we played. I was just so happy for her and her kids,” Organ said of Albany Academy’s sectional championship game. “But this year isn’t the first time that she’s won. She used to coach at Mohonasen, and in 2009, they clipped us in the finals that year and they moved on. It kind of brought back some feelings, but this time we were cheering for her and we weren’t coaching against each other.”
“I’m quick to remind him that on his shirt with all the years they’ve won, 2009 is not on there,” Guse joked.
Both Organ and Guse played NCAA Division II basketball at The College of Saint Rose, with Organ playing for longtime men’s coach Brian Beaury and Guse playing for longtime women’s coach Karen Haag.
“My Dad was our first coach,” Guse said. “Sean’s four years older than me, and he was always a phenomenal basketball player. I wanted to play basketball too, but there weren’t many girls where we grew up who were playing the game at a high level. I ended up going to a lot of practices that my Dad coaches and would practice with the boys.”
The biggest key to Averill Park’s long-term success has been defense, and players over the years buying into that mentality.
“Sean always preached defense and here at Academy, coach Bryan [Capitula], coach Gerry [Vien] and I have preached defense all season,” Guse explained.
“He always says that ‘defense travels,’ and we’ve tried to take on the same thing. Defense is really what wins games,” Bryan Capitula, Albany Academy’s head coach, said of Organ. “Our No. 1 focus this year was defense, which I think had lost us some games last year. Our energy and effort this year has been unbelievable all year long for these kids. They’ve bought into having fun playing defense.”
The Bears have a 23-1 overall record this season, going 16-0 in the Colonial Council. Albany Academy will be up against Section VII’s Saranac (22-1) during the 3:30 p.m. regional contest.
“I feel like everyone here just works so hard and we make every opportunity count,” said Albany Academy senior Stylianna Mantzouris. “We had so much support this season, and we really felt like we had the community rooting for us and we always left everything we had out there.”
“Just spending time with everyone. All these girls are like my best friends,” Albany Academy senior Erin Huban said. “Basketball is the best time of the day for me. I get through school and then I get to see all of them.”
While defense is the most significant aspect of their game that Averill Park points to, there’s a collection of other factors that have led to their success.
“We spend a lot of time in the classroom watching film and going over who we’re going to be guarding and what their tendencies are,” senior Elizabeth Aiossa said of the Warriors’ preparation. “We also spend a lot of time just hanging out with each other after practices. Overall, we just spend a ton of time together.”
“There’s a standard here, which gives you a supportive atmosphere and a family environment,” added junior Tatiana Tune. “That standard has to be met if we’re going to keep going, and it is because our coaches push us to be the best we can. It’s honestly like an endless loop.”
Even though Averill Park has won nine straight titles, there is a select group of players on the team who know what it’s like to experience losing the final game. In the 2021 season, also referred to as the COVID-season, there was no sectional tournament.
Rather, the Suburban Council has a league tournament where Averill Park was eliminated in the semifinals by Saratoga Springs.
“A loss that ends your season, whether it involved the streak or not, it still ended our season earlier than we wanted it to,” Tune said. “A loss like that leaves a heavy pain and it’s not something that any of us have forgotten.”
“It was definitely really hard to watch the seniors go out like that,” added Aiossa. “It was on our floor, so that really stunk and was just a sad way to end. The season was just over; it was done just like that.”
The opportunity to continue the season to the final weekend is something that means a lot to senior Bailee Lange. For her, it’s about tradition: the tradition of defense and the tradition of winning.
“Defense is our heart and soul. If you look at Averill Park and wonder what kind of team we are, we’re all about defense,” Lange said. “The chance to prove that our tradition never graduates and to keep it going, as Averill Park, it means everything.”
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports