There will be no riding off into the sunset with a final victory for long-time Shenendehowa girls’ basketball coach Ken Strube.
Upstarts Breahanda Stratton and Emia Willingham-Hurst led Albany to a 52-46 win over the Lady Plainsmen in the first game of Thursday’s Class AA semifinal double-header at Hudson Valley Community College. The 19-1 Lady Falcons will meet Colonie in Saturday’s championship game after the Garnet Raiders dethroned Shaker, 54-30, in a rematch of the 2011 final.
Strube, who announced prior to the season that this would be his final one as the Lady Plainsmen’s head coach, finished with a state-best 589 coaching wins. His teams won 10 Section II titles and four state championships.
The Lady Falcons, who last won a title in 1998, were out to make some history of their own.
Unlike last year’s semifinal, when a nervous Albany was out of it early against Shaker, the Lady Falcons stayed with the Lady Plainsmen and took control of the game in the fourth quarter, holding the Lady Plainsmen without a basket for the first 6:50 of the final quarter.
“They’re a year older,” said Albany coach Kelly Haggerty-MacNabb of her Big 10 champions. “And they trust each other. When they play together as a team, they can do a lot. They did that tonight.”
Stratton was a huge part of that, scoring eight points in the second quarter and 10 in the third as the Lady Falcons took a one-point lead into the final eight minutes.
“Bre never misses in practice,” said Haggerty-MacNabb. “We’ve been waiting for her to have a big game like this.”
“This means a lot,“ said Stratton, who finished with a team-high 22 points.“We always lose in this round.”
Willingham-Hurst added 17 points and did a solid job of running the Albany offense.
“We just had a bad time to go cold, and Bre had a great game,” said Shenendehowa senior guard Emily Weber, a Miss New York Basketball finalist who was the sole focus of the Albany defense when fellow co-captain Mary Kate Cusack got into foul trouble and eventually fouled out.
“The game changed when we went to man-to-man,” said Haggerty-MacNabb. “They were playing at a slower tempo. We play better when it’s up-tempo.”
Stratton scored eight straight points in the second quarter as Albany battled back from a 19-12 deficit with 3:30 left.
Weber, who had seven points in the first quarter, added five in the second, as fellow senior Mary Kate Cusack sat for half of that quarter after picking up her second foul.
Albany continued to ride Stratton’s hot hand, and with the 10th-grader scoring another 10 points, the Big 10 champions took a 37-36 lead into the final eight minutes.
The lead grew to 47-35 when Mylah Chandler and Stratton both hit a pair of baskets while Shenendehowa went ice-cold from the floor. When Willingham-Hurst coolly drained a three-pointer seconds after Cusack picked up her fifth foul, the Lady Falcons were up by 11 and could feel Saturday’s final.
Alyx Gleason finally got Shenendehowa a basket, hitting a three with 1:10 left in the game. Shen cut the deficit to five, 51-46, on Weber’s drive with 19 seconds to play, the final points of her tremendous career that saw her score more than 2,000 points.
“We didn’t get the ball to Emily as much as I would have liked,” Strube said. “We dug ourselves a hole with our foul trouble in the first half.”
“In the second half, they came out hard and made their shots. That got them going,” said Weber, who has signed to play at Canisius.
“This team took us for a great ride,” said Strube. “I thought this year, with a little bit of luck, we could be 15-5. We were 17-3 and could have won every game we played. The kids played their hearts out until the final buzzer every game. I have no regrets.”
“Our goal for the season was to get back to the final,” said Colonie coach Heather Fiore. “There wasn’t a lot of talk about Shaker beating us in the final. We just wanted to get there.”
Colonie held down the potent Lady Bison offense and gained control after trailing, 8-6, following one quarter.”
“I can’t say enough about our defense, the entire game. We knew our offense would come,” said Fiore.
“Defense wins games,” echoed senior forward Kawandi Young. “We got steals, got out and scored.”
Junior guard Sydnie Rosales was one of the other key Colonie players who played in last year’s final.
“It was very important for us to get back and play in the final again,” she said. “That’s been our goal.”
Saturday’s schedule has been altered to accommodate the Class B semifinals. Tamarac will play Cohoes at noon in a “B” semi, followed by the Class A title game between Scotia-Glenville and Averill Park at 1:45 p.m. The other Class B semi — top-seeded Watervliet against Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk — will go next at 3:30, with the “AA” final closing the day at 5:15.
The Class B final will be played here Tuesday, the second game of two that begins with the Section II Class C champion meeting either the Section VII or Section X champ at 6 p.m.
Hoosic Valley and Voorheesville meet here tonight to determine the Section II “C” champ, playing after Fort Edward and Argyle meet at 6 in the Class D championship game.
ALBANY 52, SHENENDEHOWA 46
Weber 7-10-25, Cusack 4-0-11, Marsal 1-2-4, Connors 0-0-0, Lewis 1-0-3, Gleason 1-0-3, Dufort 0-0-0, Shea 0-0-0. Totals: 14-12-25.
Willingham-Hurst 5-6-17, Stratton 10-0-22 Waterson 0-0-0, Terrell 0-0-0, Hutchinson 0-0-0 Williams 2-0-4, Canty 1-1-3, Chandler 3-0-6. Totals: 21-7-52.
Shenendehowa 10 13 13 10 — 46
Albany 8 13 16 15 — 52
Three-point goals: Weber, Cusask 3 Gleason, Lewis, Willingham-Hurst, Stratton 2.