The Shaker girls’ basketball team let Shenendehowa hang around for eight minutes Tuesday night, then accomplished the task at hand, completing a perfect regular season with a 59-40 win at Siena College.
Shaker outscored Shenendehowa, 40-26, over the final three quarters, opening up a lead that got to 19 points in the third quarter in finishing 16-0 in the Suburban Council and 18-0 heading into the Class AA tournament. Shaker will be the top seed from the SC when the brackets are drawn up today, but the second one-sided win over the second-place team in the SC North merely whetted the Lady Bison appetite for the postseason.
“We wanted to be undefeated, and we wanted to have that momentum pushing us into sectionals,” said senior forward Sage VanAmerongen. “It’s my last year, and I couldn’t ask for a better team, a better coach. It’s all working in our favor, but I know that I’m not ready to let it go yet.”
“I wanted it,” said Shaker coach Emily Caschera-Blowers of the unbeaten regular season. “You don’t want to end on a loss going into sectionals and with a bye.
“Did we want to be undefeated? Absolutely. You want to win every game. It’s a good push to sectionals.”
A lot of the push is due to the heavy lifting done by VanAmerongen and junior Becky Rossier. The two 6-footers had their typical workmanlike games, dominating inside, forcing Shenendehowa to change their attack and, for the most part, limiting the Lady Plainsmen to one shot each possession.
“They’re good down low. They take up space, and they held us to a lot of one-and-dones,” said Shenhendehowa coach Joe Murphy, whose 12-4, 14-4 team lost both games against Shaker.
Unlike their first meeting a month ago, when a timid Shenendehowa was never in a 61-33 loss, the Lady Plainsmen came out aggressively, pressuring the ball on defense and attacking Shaker’s 2-3 zone.
With sophomore standout Carly Boland scoring nine points, Shenendehowa built a 14-11 lead, only to see Shaker’s Lyric Artis hit a pair of threes — her only points of the game — to help the Lady Bison to a 19-14 lead after one quarter.
“We did it well in the first quarter, then we got very stagnant,” said Murphy of his team’s offense. “We stopped penetrating. We passed up some shots, and it got frustrating when we’d get only one shot. We’d get a rebound, then turn it right back over.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot with turnovers. But they’re a very good team.”
When VanAmerongen and Rossier began to take over, it freed up guards Jenni Barra and Merrick Rowland to run the court.
“Everyone comes down, so it’s not just us rebounding,” said Rossier of herself and VanAmerongen. “We have to get the ball for them. It’s not always about scoring, you need rebounds to push the ball up the floor.”
“Having Becky down there low with me, we push each other,” said VanAmerongen. “You’re going to get beat up down there. I’ve known that since I started, but it’s something you have to live with. I know it’s advancing the team.”
“Being a big in this league is hard,” said Caschera-Blowers. “Our league is very guard-dominant. They battle every day. They come away with scratches and bruises.
“They’ve done a phenomenal job all year. It shows how talented our two posts are.”
Shaker pulled away from a 30-22 halftime lead, outscoring Shenendehowa, 10-2, in the first five minutes of the third period. That lead went to 19 when Barra hit two free throws, was 16 at the end of three and got to 22 in the closing minute of play.
Barra finished with 18 points (11 in the second half) and Rowland got all but two of her 11 in the second half. VanAmerongen and Rossier teamed for another 17 points.
Boland finished with 15 points, and freshman Sydney Brown added seven points and took down 15 rebounds for Shenendehowa.
“We worked very hard to get here. Every game we pushed,” said Rossier. “We never underestimated any team. You have to fight for every win.”
Barra 6-5-18, Rowland 4-3-11, Artis 2-0-6, VanAmerongen 4-1-9, Rossier 4-0-8, Mayo 1-0-2, Smith 2-0-5. Totals: 23-9-59.
Shea 2-1-5, Acker 2-2-7, Boland 5-2-15, Sangare 1-0-2, Brown 3-0-7, O’Brien 0-2-2, Lee 1-0-2. Totals: 14-7-40.
Shaker 19 11 17 12 — 59
Shenendehowa 14 8 9 9 — 40
Three-point goals: Barra, Artis 2, Smith, Acker, Boland 3, Brown.