A basket off a spin move from Shaker junior forward Cece Mayo knotted up the score late in Tuesday’s fourth quarter.
Down at the other end of the court, though, the Shenendehowa girls’ basketball team didn’t panic. After a few passes around the perimeter, sophomore guard Alexandra Tudor saw an opening to get the ball to the player her team needed to take its next shot.
Tudor’s pass found senior Carly Boland wide open in the corner, and the guard promptly swished her team back ahead with a 3-pointer.
STAR OF THE GAME
Shen's Carly Boland, who scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“She’s the person to look to,” Tudor said of her teammate. “She’s a leader.”
Down the stretch against Shaker, the Plainsmen got exactly what they needed from their senior leaders in a 52-48 victory at Shaker. Besides Boland, senior forwards Morgan O’Brien and Samira Sangare also made key plays in the final minutes as Shenendehowa stayed undefeated in the Suburban Council.
“It [came] down to that senior leadership we have on this team,” Shenendehowa head coach Joe Murphy said.
Murphy called upon those leaders to take charge at Monday’s practice. Shenendehowa (14-0, 16-2) had spent its weekend taking a pair of losses during a New York City showcase against elite competition, and the coach had his team start Monday’s workout with a players-led discussion about what needed improvement before the Section II Class AA playoffs start later this month.
“And they came up with some really honest answers,” Murphy said. “It came from them, it wasn’t from me, and that’s what I want out of my seniors — to take accountability and ownership of this team.”
Sangare said those weekend losses — against Capital Prep from Connecticut, and St. Anthony’s in Long Island — stung the Plainsmen, but that the team was ready by Tuesday’s tip-off against Shaker (11-3, 14-4) to bounce back.
“It really [made] us wake up,” she said. “But when adversity hits this team, we step up.”
After a fast start for both teams, the Plainsmen took control heading into halftime. Boland scored 14 of her game-high 23 points in the first half, while O’Brien had seven of her nine to help pace the Plainsmen to a 32-22 halftime lead.
But Shaker kept within striking range throughout the second half. A Shenendehowa flurry to start the fourth quarter put the visitors ahead 45-35, but Shaker answered with an 11-1 run that Mayo’s game-tying layup capped with 2:30 to play.
“That’s just our nature,” said Mayo, who led her team with 15 points and 13 rebounds. “We go our hardest until the end and never give up. We’re relentless.”
The Plainsmen, though, made more plays down the stretch. After Boland’s 3-pointer, Mayo split a pair of free throws; O’Brien followed that with her own 1-for-2 free-throw effort. Mayo then again split a pair.
After a Shenendehowa timeout, Shaker sent Sangare — who had spent most of the fourth quarter on the bench — to the foul line, where the senior knocked down two free throws to give her team a two-possession lead with 18.8 seconds to go.
“I knew at some point that I’d have to be ready in the fourth quarter,” said Sangare, whose late free throws accounted for her only points.
“We stayed calm,” said Boland, who had 11 rebounds. “We trusted each other and we knew we could make plays if we executed.”
Junior forward Sydney Brown added nine points for Shenendehowa, while Shaker received 14 from sophomore guard Shyla Sanford.
Shenendehowa’s win against Shaker came in the team’s fourth game in five days. Boland called that stretch “mentally exhausting” for the Plainsmen, who have now beaten every team in the Suburban Council this season. Still, Sangare said, it was not tough for the senior-laden Plainsmen to muster up the energy for a rivalry game against Shaker.
“We had to win this game,” she said.
Boland 9-1-23, Brown 4-1-9, O’Brien 4-1-9, Tudor 2-0-4, Quinn 1-1-3, Sangare 0-2-2, Tooley 1-0-2. Total: 21-6-52
Mayo 4-7-15, Sanford 5-0-14, Martino 3-0-9, DeNault 2-0-6, DeBeatham 1-0-2, Rossier 1-0-2. Total: 16-7-48
Shenendehowa 14 18 5 15 — 52
Shaker 15 7 11 15 — 48
Three-point goals: Boland 4, Sanford 4, Martino 3, DeNault 2.