To say that Emily Weber meant a lot to the Shenendehowa girls’ basketball program the last four years would be a disservice to the talented senior.
Weber, bound for Canisius College in the fall and one of two seniors and two repeat selections on the 2012 Daily Gazette All-Area team, was Shenendehowa girls’ basketball the last four years.
“She’s right up there with the best players I’ve ever coached,” said Ken Strube, who stepped down as the Lady Plainsmen coach when the 2011-12 season came to an end. “She’s just had a tremendous career.”
Weber, a finalist for the Miss New York Basketball Award, led her team in scoring for the third straight season this winter as the Lady Plainsmen tied with North Division rival Shaker for the Suburban Council’s best record at 15-1 and finished 17-3 with a loss to Albany in the Class AA semifinals.
Weber averaged 16.4 points per game in league play and had a 17.6 ppg mark overall, while also leading the Lady Plainsmen in rebounding, free throws made and attempted (106-for-128, 82.8 percent), was second in three-pointers made, and often drew one of the opponent’s tougher players on defense.
“This year, she was our leading rebounder,” said Strube of Weber, who earned her second straight Suburban Council Player of the Year honor. “In the past, we’ve had more post-oriented lineups, but Emily knew she’d have to be a major contributor in that area, too.
“She plays bigger than 5-9. That helps.”
Weber, a three-time SC first-team all-star and a state third-team pick as a junior, was a model of consistency throughout the year. The only three times she failed to reach double digits in scoring were in one-sided wins over Bethlehem and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, and a 39-29 victory over Mohonasen.
“And that’s with the other team’s defense doing everything they could to stop her,” said Stube.
Weber finished her career shooting better than 50 percent from the field.
“We’re not talking about a 6-foot-5 player who gets the ball three feet from the basket, turns around and lays it in,” Strube said. “She has great range on her shot, and was fearless going to the basket.”
The only person that really came close to stopping Weber was the senior herself.
“Halfway through the season, Emily wasn’t the player who had taken the most shots for us,” said Strube. “She really embraced her role as co-captain, and was doing everything she could to get everyone else involved in the offense.
“One day in practice, we’re working on plays to get her and Mary Kate Cusack open for shots. We’re running plays, and Em kept passing the ball.
“I called her over and said something to the effect of, ‘We have this player who is shooting something like 30 percent, and we have this other player who is shooting over 50 percent. Which would be our better option?’
“She says, ‘The player shooting over 50 percent.’ I said, ‘That player is you.’ She looked at me, and then realized what we were trying to do.”
Weber opened the season with a 24-point game at Niskayuna, and went over 20 points six other times during the regular season, getting a season high of 29 in the Lady Plainsmen’s win over Lancaster at the Lockport Tournament, Shenendehowa’s traditional regular-season-ending event.
She scored 21 in Shenendehowa’s sectional opener against Troy, and 25 in the Lady Plainsmen’s loss to Albany in the semifinals.
Weber became the program’s eighth player to top 1,000 career points, getting the milestone in a
Jan. 27 home win against Averill Park.
“Even with all she did to make us a better team, in big-time games, she came up big,” said Strube, referring to Weber’s outputs of 19 and 23 points in two games against reigning Class AA champ Shaker, and a
20-point effort against eventual
2012 Class AA champ Colonie.
“In my 33 years of coaching, I’ve been blessed to have had some great players,” said Strube. “She’s right up there with the best of them.”
The Scotia-Glenville junior continued to improve her game this winter, and with it, helped the Lady Tartans to the Class A championship game.
“She never stops working to improve her game,” said Scotia coach Regan Burns of the Texas transplant, who earned her third consecutive Foothills Council MVP award this winter. “She’s either on the court, working on her shot or a move, or she’s in the weight room.”
Broadhead has been all but unstoppable the last three years in the Foothills Council, and has helped her team play deeper into the postseason each year. Broadhead can score from distance, and is not afraid to go to the basket.
This was all while drawing the majority of attention from opposing defenses. Broadhead won the league scoring title this season, averaging 22.0 points per game as the Lady Tartans went 12-0.
“Cassie’s never been a kid who’s concerned about where the points come from,” said Burns. “She knows that she’s our best option. She understands that, but she’s so good seeing the court that she can find her teammates.”
Already possessing an outside shot with good range and a willingness to go to the basket, Broadhead worked on ways to get her shot away.
“This year, she really worked on creating space off the dribble, getting defenders back on their heels so she could pull up for her jump shot,” said Burns. “That was probably the biggest thing she added this year. And she also improved her outside shot.”
Broadhead, who committed to Brigham Young University prior to the season, went over the
1,000-point mark in Scotia’s first game, scoring 22 points in a non-league win over Stillwater.
She followed that up with a season-best 30 points in a win over Catholic Central — a total she matched late in the season against Glens Falls — and delivered a double-digit effort in all but one game this season.
Burns credits Broadhead’s work in the weight room with her ability to maintain her level of play during the long season.
“She knows the other team is going to do what it can to get her out of her game,” said Burns. “She knew that she needed to get physically stronger. She gets her share of contact, and she didn’t back down.”
Making Broadhead get her two points from the foul line wasn’t the best option for opponents, as she hit 70 percent of her free throws.
Broadhead, a state Class A third-team all-star as a sophomore, was equally good at either end of the Lady Tartans’ fast break.
“She’s the one we’d like to see finishing the break, but she has such good court vision that she can see a teammate and make that long pass,” said Burns. “She does a lot of the things that get missed sometimes because the first thing people look for is how many points she scored. She’s the total package.”
Broadhead also took over more of a leadership role this season.
“She’s quiet by nature, but I think she was in more of a comfort zone this season,” said Burns. “She was a year older, and I think she knew she had to take on more of that leadership role.”
Don’t let the scoring average fool you. Rosales’ value to Colonie, and its first Class AA title since 2007, went way beyond numbers.
“With the makeup of the team we had, we needed Sydnie to be our point guard,” said Colonie coach Heather Fiore “I asked her to change her game, and she really responded.”
While Rosales’ average took a slight dip (from 12.3 ppg to 11.6 ppg), her worth to Fiore and the other Lady Raiders was reflected in the team’s run to a sectional title.
“She could have easily averaged five or six points more a game,” said Fiore of Rosales, whose 50 three-point baskets were fourth in Section II. “But Sydnie’s the kind of player who doesn’t care where the points are coming from. She wants to win.”
To that effect, Rosales didn’t finish in the top 10 in the Suburban Council in scoring, but neither did any of her teammates. Rosales, fellow 11th-grader Jaclyn Welch and seniors Ashley Loggins and Kawandi Young were all between 10.5 and 11.6 ppg.
A second-team Gazette All-Area choice in 2011, Rosales finished third in the Suburban Council all-star voting done by the league’s coaches, who clearly recognized both Rosales’ talent and what she accomplished in the team aspect of the game.
“It can be a tough transition,” said Fiore. “Last year, she played some point for us, but we had [Gazette first-teamer] Tehresa Coles, and Sydnie could always get the ball to Tehresa and let her do her thing.
“This year, she really worked hard at getting everybody involved, and still realizing that there were times when she needed to shoot.”
Rosales hit for 16 points three times during the regular season, then stepped it up in the sectionals. She had 23 points in Colonie’s opening-round win over Ballston Spa, 15 in the quarterfinals against Catholic Central, 12 as the Lady Raiders dethroned Shaker in the semis and 23 in the finals against Albany.
The two-time SC first-team all-star scored 11 consecutive points in that game as Colonie pulled away from the Lady Falcons.
“She was capable of doing that all year, but we didn’t need it,” said Fiore of Rosales, who averaged 4.1 assists and 3.1 steals a game. “The way she accepted her role and wanted to do well in that role, that was very important to us, and I think it will help make her an even more dangerous player in the future.”
“She’s been a threat every year she’s been on varsity,” said Shaker coach Emily Caschera-Blowers, who had a courtside seat for the final four seasons of Woods’ five-year varsity career that saw the senior develop into the top female post player in Section II. “Teams have had to change their schemes because of her.
“She’s been a very consistent player who really stepped up this year.”
Woods got off to a big start this year. With several teammates serving disciplinary suspensions, Woods scored 25, a season-high 26 and 22 points in leading the Blue Bison to a 3-0 start as they began defense of their Class AA sectional title.
“She carried us, no doubt,” said Caschera-Blowers. “She put us on her back. She showed what she could do.”
Woods, who has yet to select a college, became the first Shaker player to hit the 1,000-point career mark this season, closing her career with 1,140 points. The manner in which she set that piece of school history impressed her coach.
“She’s not a great free-throw shooter, but the biggest clutch
free throws she took all year, she swished,” Caschera-Blowers said. “She need two to get her 1,000th point. Swished them both. End of the Shenendehowa game, with the game on the line, she swished both. In our win over Colonie, she swished both.”
The foul shots against Shenendehowa gave the Blue Bison their first win since 2001 over the team that had been the measuring stick in the Suburban Council for a decade.
“This program has turned things around, and Lauren was a major
part of changing the culture,” Caschera-Blowers said.
Woods gutted out the end of her junior season, refusing to allow a foot injury to keep her out of what became the school’s first Section II championship team in 30 years.
Always a tough player to guard down low, Woods worked to become even better.
“She’s so fundamentally sound,” said Caschera-Blowers of Woods, who shot 56.3 percent from the floor her senior year. “The biggest thing about her game this year was that she finished so well. She always knew what to do with the ball, but for some reason, sometimes she’d have trouble putting the ball in the basket. Not this year. That also led to her getting a lot of and-one situations.”
One of the Blue Bison captains, Woods’ knowledge of the Shaker offense was second to none on the team. The league coaches were well aware of how influential Woods was, putting her second to Weber in their voting for the Suburban Council all-star team.
“She can tell the guards where they should be on any given play, which says something about her knowledge of the game,” Caschera-Blowers said. “Post players and guards have totally different perspectives on the floor. I think a lot of times, she knew what I wanted us to run before I did.”
It was no coincidence that Albany’s rise as a team has come while Willingham-Hurst has been running the show on the floor for the Lady Falcons.
“She carried us this year,” said Albany coach Kelly Haggerty-MacNabb, whose team reached the Class AA championship game this season. “She not only worked on improving her own game, she helped all of her teammates improve, as well.”
Willingham-Hurst’s success was the product of work, work and more work.
“She’s in the gym 365 days a year,” said Haggerty-MacNabb. “She’s working on some aspect of her game, or working out to keep herself in shape.”
A key part of a young club that won a Big 10 title in the 2010-11 season, Willingham-Hurst added an element to her game that made her a more complete player as the Lady Falcons repeated as league champion and played one game futher into the postseason.
“She was always looking to drive, and she knew she had to add something,” said Haggerty-MacNabb. “She said she took something like 1,000 shots a day to improve her outside shot. And the improvement was like night and day.”
Albany went 11-1 in the Big 10 this season, with only three games (including a 48-45 loss at Troy) decided by less than 10 points.
“Her individual statistics went down significantly this year, mostly because she didn’t play many full games in our league schedule,” said Haggerty-MacNabb of Willingham-Hurst, who averaged 14.8 ppg. in league play, 16.6 ppg. overall. “We were comfortably ahead in a lot of games, and she understood. But she was our biggest cheerleader when she was not in the game.”
Willingham-Hurst pulled down an average of six rebounds per game. She was also good for five steals and 4.3 assists each time out.
She also stepped her game up when the competition got better.
She had 19 points against the host team in the finals of the season-opening Oneonta Tournament, and 26 against Bethlehem in the
first round of the Lady Eagles’ tourney,
She helped the Lady Falcons beat Syracuse Corcoran and JFK Bronx in the Amsterdam Holiday College Showcase in late December, fired in 24 in a big late-season win at Catholic Central and averaged 19 points in three postseason games — 21 in a quarterfinal win over Bethlehem, 17 in a semifinal win over Shenendehowa and 19 in the title game against Colonie.
In the championship game, Willingham-Hurst also had team-bests of 12 rebounds, three steals and four assists.
“She really had two outstanding games at Hudson Valley [in the semis and finals],” said Haggerty-MacNabb. “She had a great game against Colonie.
“She’s always had the talent, and she’s a great student. This year, I think she knew we could do big things, and she wanted that.”