First, sophomore Carly Boland went over the top of the Albany defense. Then, freshman Sydney Brown went to work on the inside.
That 1-2 punch carried Shenendehowa to a 76-54 victory over the Lady Falcons in the Section II Class AA girls’ basketball championship game Monday night at the Times Union Center.
Shenendehowa, now 17-4, will play Section III champ Cicero North Syracuse at 1:45 Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College. The defending champion Lady Falcons finished 19-2.
Boland hit three treys in the first period and two more in the second eight minutes, shots that changed the tone of the game.
“Hitting shots from outside allows us to get to the basket,” said Shenendehowa point guard Maddie Shea, one of just three seniors on the 17-4 Lady Plainsmen roster. “We also boxed out incredibly. I think that was our best boxing out all year. It was an all-around team effort.”
“It felt good, especially in front of a lot of people who were cheering,” said Boland, who seemed to hit everything she shot. “Albany is aggressive on defense, so we had to attack that.”
Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy agreed.
“All we talked about the last couple of days was that if they were going to overplay us, we had to make them pay for it,” said the second-year head coach. “We couldn’t succumb to their pressure. We had to attack it.
“We played very, very well tonight. Things bounced our way early on, we hit some shots and the girls got confident. From there, it carried over into the second half.
“It always helps when you hit some threes to start the game. Carly Boland shot the ball very well for us tonight.”
With Boland and Ashley Acker hitting from long range, Brown found room to work underneath. Another Boland three to open the second quarter pushed the Shenendehowa lead to eight, but the combination of Albany’s pressure defense and Shenendehowa’s lack of patience allowed the defending champions to take a pair of three-point leads.
“We were making stupid turnovers. They weren’t forcing them, we were giving the ball to them,” said Shea.
Acker’s basket off a drive and a pair of free throws moments later put Shen up two. Then Boland delivered the fifth and final three-pointer of her 17-point first half, giving her team a 36-31 lead at the break.
“The basket by Ashley and three-pointer by Carly at the end of the half were huge,” Murphy said. “We went into halftime with some momentum, then we got the lead back up.”
Brown really became a force in the second half. The all-tournament selection finished with 12 points and 19 rebounds.
“They were doubling down inside on Syd Brown early. The key was controlling the boards, and Syd Brown was tremendous on the boards all night long,” Murphy said.
Thanks to Brown, Shenendehowa owned a 41-31 edge on the boards, though Albany had 19 off the offensive glass. Boland made six of her seven three-point attempts as Shen went 11-for-17 as a team. Albany, by contrast hit one of 12, and went 9-for-19 from the foul line.
Shen made 16 of 31 from inside the arc, while Albany made less than 33 percent (21-for-66) in addition to its woes from behind the arc.
A four-minute Albany scoreless stretch in the third period allowed Shenendehowa to take a 14-point lead into the fourth.
“Not a lot of people believed we could win. We used that to motivate us,” said Boland, the tournament MVP.
SHENENDEHOWA 76, ALBANY 54
Boland 9-0-24, Brown 5-2-12, Sangare 3-2-10, Acker 4-7-17, Shea 0-0-0, Hulbert 3-0-7, Lee 1-0-2, O’Brien 1-0-2, Smith 1-0-2. Totals: 27-11-76.
Waterson 1-2-4, Chandler 9-0-18, Hunter 3-2-9, Greer 2-2-6, Williams 4-1-9, Richards 0-1-1, Wilson 2-1-5, Valentine 1-0-2. Totals: 22-12-54.
Shenendehowa 17 19 16 24 — 76
Albany 12 19 7 16 — 54
Three-point goals: Boland 6, Sangare 2, Acker 2, Hulbert, Hunter.