Shenendehowa had no answer for Ayanna Hunter.
The whirling dervish ran through and around the Lady Plainsmen’s defense to help the Albany Falcons post a convincing 76-58 victory in a foul-filled Section II Class AA girls’ quarterfinal Friday night at Larry T. O’Neill Gym.
Hunter, a 5-foot-4 freshman point guard, recorded 23 points, eight assists and six steals to lead the Big 10-champion Falcons to their 18th win in 19 decisions. Shenendehowa finished at 14-6.
“I feel good with the ball in her hands,” said Albany coach Decky Lawson. “She’s not bad for a freshman.”
Lawson said that although Hunter is capable of large scoring outputs, it hasn’t been her forte in conference games this year. Hunter averaged just about five points a game.
“When we played some teams from downstate, she scored 14 or 15 points, but against the teams up here, we didn’t really need her to score,” said Lawson. “I can go so deep with this team. We have a lot of players who can score.”
“That’s not really my game,” said Hunter about her scoring outburst. “Defense and passing are my priorities. But coach kept telling me to go to the basket.”
Shenendehowa’s perimeter players couldn’t keep up with Hunter’s blazing speed, and she continually drove through the lane for some easy — and not so easy — baskets. Several times, she faked out her defender with a quick crossover move, and darted through the lane untouched.
“Don’t get me wrong. Ayanna is a very good point guard, especially for a freshman,” said first-year Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy. “We did a pretty good job on her in the first half, but we couldn’t continue to help out on her because our perimeter players were in so much foul trouble. Albany’s physicality just wore us down. They are a lot more physical than us, and we got into foul trouble. Then, they came in with some people off the bench that we couldn’t contain.
“We just couldn’t be as aggressive as we wanted to be on the defensive end because of our foul trouble,” Murphy said.
Albany spread the wealth offensively. Melissa Canty, a 5-9 senior post player, scored 10 points, while Cara Waterson, a 5-7 junior, scored nine. Sophomores Mylah Chandler and Ariel Grier combined for 17 points.
Just when the Lady Plainsmen began to neutralize some of the Falcons’ post play, Albany opened the game up with three-pointers from Waterson, Mia Valentine and Cyla Wilson.
“Those two three-pointers that Valentine hit were big for us, and then we were able to play a lot of our post players. I have a lot of them, and some of them I haven’t even been able to use that much yet,” said Lawson. “We are a very deep team, and we’re young.
Canty was the only senior to play for the young Falcons, who take on Shaker in Wednesday’s semifinals at 7:30 at Hudson Valley Community College. The Blue Bison crushed Bishop Maginn, 51-30, in the other part of Friday’s double-header.
Albany took a 14-13 first-quarter lead and expanded it to 36-24 at halftime when Hunter began to find the range.
But the Falcons dominated the third period, 21-12, and led by as much as 22 (61-39) early in the fourth before substituting freely down the bench.
A hard foul that sent Hunter to the floor late in the game almost created a ruckus, but both teams settled down after a technical foul was called.
“I thought that was going to happen eventually,” said Lawson. “There was a lot of frustration out there.”
“We can go all the way with this team,” added Hunter. “We can definitely go far.”
Shenendehowa was led by junior Ashley Acker with 13 points, freshman Carly Boland with 12 and freshman Samira Sangare with 11.
Shea 2-1-5, Massoudi 0-1-1, Connors 1-1-3, Marsal 1-1-3, Acker 5-0-13, Sangare 3-4-11, Boland 5-1-12, Wall 0-2-2, Brown 2-4-8. Totals: 19-15-58.
Canty 5-0-10, Chandler 3-3-9, Dollard 2-0-4, Greer 2-4-8, Hunter 8-7-23, Terrell 1-0-2, Valentine 2-0-6, Waterson 2-4-9, Wilson 2-0-5. Totals: 27-19-76.
Shenendehowa 13 11 12 22 – 58
Albany 14 22 21 19 – 76
Three-point goals: Acker 3, Sangare, Boland, Valentine 2, Waterson, Wilson.