Usually this deep into the posteason, experience plays a role in a team’s success.
But in today’s Class AA regional girls’ semifinal, both Shenendehowa and Cicero-North Syracuse will be relying heavily on underclassmen.
“They’re like us in that they don’t play a lot of seniors,” said Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy, whose 17-4 Lady Plainsmen have knocked off unbeaten Shaker and once-beaten Albany to get to today’s 1:45 p.m. state quarterfinal at Hudson Valley Community College.
“I was looking at some stats, and it looks like they don’t have any one great scorer, but they’ve got three or four players who could get 20 on any night.” Murphy said.
“They play really good defense, cut down the passing lanes and really make things tough.”
Murphy only has three 12th-graders on his roster, with Maddie Shea starting at point guard and Ashley Acker also at guard. Sophomores Carly Boland — the Suburban Council Player of the Year — and Samira Sangare, and freshman Sydney Brown are the other starters,
The depth of the Shenendehowa bench has served the Lady Plainsmen well.
“We’ve been getting good efforts from everyone,” said Murphy. “Erin Hulburt came off the bench when Maddie got in foul trouble against Albany and played well. Amanda Lee has come on and rebounded, played defense. Morgan O’Brien, Sydney Quinn, Alexandra Tudor, it seems like whomever we call on, they go out there and give us what we need.”
Shenendehowa lost both of its Suburban Council games to Shaker, the second coming on the final night of league play. With a week to get ready for the sectional opener with Catholic Central, Murphy got his team focused on the postseason.
“It all started with the Catholic High game,” said the second-year head coach. “It was a chippy game, and we battled it. So, we had confidence going into the Shaker [semifinal] game, and we shot the ball well, which always helps.”
Sangare got Shenendehowa its early lift against Shaker, and Boland knocked down four straight early threes to get Albany out of its game in the final.
“You’re not always going to get that,” said Murphy. “We’re going to have to play smart, play good defense and rebound.”
The Northstars won their sixth consecutive Section III title by holding top-seeded West Genessee to eight second-half points in a 44-26 win.
“They play great defense, really move their feet,” said Murphy.
Junior Emilee Norris, a 6-foot center, scored 15 points, the only player to hit double figures in the Section III final. Sophomores Samantha Tortora, McKayla Roberts and Beth Bonin combined for 21 points.
Shea pointed to better practices in the past two weeks as another reason for Shenendehowa’s run.
“If you’re not focused in practice, you’re not going to be focused in the game,” Shea said. “It’s really important to use the practice time, because you don’t get enough. It’s time when you can implement what you want to do in the game.”