First-year Schalmont varsity girls’ basketball head coach Jeff VanHoesen took one look at his team when practice started in November, and knew the Lady Sabres would have to play strong defense in every game.
“Every night we play in this league, we’re undersized. Our defense has to keep us in games,” said VanHoesen after Schalmont shut down Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, 35-31, Friday in their Colonial Council game.
After the teams played to a 14-14 tie in the first quarter, Schalmont held the Lady Indians scoreless in the second quarter. But the Lady Sabres only scored four points, missing a chance to open a big lead.
“Our defense is probably the strongest part of our team, especially when we get into our 2-3 zone,” said VanHoesen. “The girls are so quick. They slide. They contest all shots.”
“Our defense does keep us in games,” said senior Alexandra Cardinal, whose two free throws with 11.7 seconds left finally put Ravena away. “To be honest, I don’t even think about that [size disadvantage]. Like coach said, we’re undersized every game. We use our hops, we box out.”
Schalmont (4-2 Colonial, 5-2 overall) had not played since a 20-point loss at Ichabod Crane a full two weeks ago.
“We just needed to forget about that game,” said sophomore guard Hailee Metzold, who scored nine of her game-high 17 points in the first quarter.
Kayla Hotaling’s five points, and three-pointers from three different players, helped Ravena stay with Schalmont in the first eight minutes. Hotaling finished with a team-best 16 points, eight coming from the line.
“Our whole strategy was to deny Hotaling the ball and make sure we work our tails off and not give them easy shots,” said VanHoesen. “If they beat us from the outside, they beat us from the outside. I didn’t want to get beat inside.
“We did a good job on Hotaling, and didn’t let any of their other players beat us. That was the best defensive effort we’ve had this year. And this is probably the best rebounding game we’ve had, too.”
Ravena, which opted to keep shooting three-pointers over the Schalmont zone, has a miserable night from the floor. But the Lady Indians finally used their size to make it a game in the fourth quarter, running down long rebounds off their own missed free throws, and getting to the line when Schalmont went over the foul limit early in the fourth.
“We kind of fouled too much,” said Metzold. “We did box out, but it kept going long, and they kept getting the rebounds.”
“I told them I was pleased with how hard they worked, because there will be nights when the offense just isn’t there,” said Ravena coach Bruce Stott, whose team is 4-2 in the league and 5-2 overall. “I consider us to be a pretty good shooting team. But they did a good job of trying to keep Kayla out of it. Sometimes, you’ve got to make other things happen. Everybody got their share of shots from the wing, and everybody missed their share of shots.”
Despite not hitting on any of their threes after the first quarter, Ravena pulled to within 28-27 in the fourth, its defense shutting down everyone except Metzold and Cardinal (nine points).
Freshman Rachel Strijek then connected on two baskets around a Hotaling free throw, one a three-pointer, that gave Schalmont a 33-28 lead.
“She wasn’t shooting well, but I told her she was going to have openings,” said VanHoesen. “She does a good job, for a young kid, of erasing things. She has the type of shot that I think is going in every time.”
Ravena hurt itself by missing eight of 13 free throws in the last quarter, Cardinal had no problem making hers at the end, though neither went through clean.
“I just say in my head, ‘You’re going to make them.’ As long as they go in, they don’t have to be pretty,” she said.
“These girls gutted it out. They’re doing a good job of keeping their composure in close games,” said VanHoesen.
Filkins 1-0-3, Rebeor 2-1-6, Hotaling 4-8-16, Preston 1-0-3, Vosburgh 0-0-0. Totals: 9-10-31.
Metzold 6-5-18, Cardinal 3-2-9, Srocyzinski 1-0-3. Strijek 2-0-5, Vitallo 0-0-0, Saccocio 0-0-0. Totals: 12-7-35.
Ravena 14 0 6 11 — 31
Schalmont 1 4 9 9 — 35
Three-point goals: Filkins, Rebeor, Preston, Metzold, Cardinal, Sroczynski, Strijek.