ROTTERDAM — They savored their own postseason win.
As that celebration Tuesday for members of the Johnstown High School varsity girls’ lacrosse team started to slow down, their excitement received a fresh jolt of energy when they found out their school’s varsity boys’ squad had also won its Section II Class D semifinal game.
So the girls would play for a championship on Thursday, then the boys would go for one on Friday.
Things couldn’t get much better for a bunch of proud student-athletes.
“And,” Johnstown girls’ head coach Denise Benton said, “then the girls heard.”
What they heard was that the financially struggling Greater Johnstown School District’s budget vote had turned up an interesting result.
A majority of voters had approved the budget, but not by a large enough margin to override the New York state property tax cap. That meant the budget failed, and that funding for athletics — as well as other extracurricular activities, high school elective classes and more — could be chopped when a revised budget goes back to voters next month.
They heard that. Went to bed. Then to school.
Next up was practice, where the Johnstown girls’ lacrosse team showed up to put in the work needed to prepare for the Lady Bills’ first appearance in a championship game since 2006 amid a wide range of emotions.
There was anger. Sadness. Confusion about the whole situation.
A sense of resolve and purpose.
“We knew we had to show our community what Johnstown sports are made of,” Johnstown senior Maddie Etherton said. “It was a huge motivation for a lot of girls here.”
That showed Thursday at Mohonasen, where Johnstown prolonged its dominant season with a 16-10 win against Holy Names in the Section II Class D girls’ lacrosse championship game. A program that didn’t field a varsity team in 2014, and didn’t win a game in either 2015 or 2016 continued its evolution with an emotional victory that catapulted it into next week’s state tournament with a 16-1 record.
“We,” Benton said, “had to channel everything and prove that the Lady Bills are worth people’s time and energy.”
“We wanted to show our community that we need sports and that we have talented athletes in Johnstown,” said Johnstown sophomore Taryn Ringer, a multi-sport star who scored four goals in the Lady Bills’ win Thursday. “We want sports. Sports play a major role in high school. Kids are talented in them, and it helps take them to college. Sometimes, it helps pay for college. It makes school easier on kids. You come to school with the motivation to get good grades — sports motivates that for a lot of kids.”
High school sports, for so many, create a sense of community, too.
“It’s not a high school without sports,” Ringer said.
Ringer scored right before Thursday’s halftime to put Johnstown up 7-5, and the Lady Bills weren’t seriously challenged in the final 25 minutes. Besides Ringer’s four goals, Etherton had two goals and three assists, junior Abbey Hollister registered three goals and an assist, junior Amber Tesi scored three goals and junior Madison Delgado had two scores to lead Johnstown.
The celebration that followed the win was an enthusiastic one.
There were tears, but only of joy.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world because our school, as everyone knows, is not doing great right now,” Tesi said, “and it’s just the first time in  years [that our program won a championship]. It’s just great. It’s amazing.”
“We knew if we kept pushing and kept lifting each other up, that we could win,” Etherton said.
Away from the playing fields, things aren’t as simple. Mike Satterlee — who was appointed Wednesday as Johnstown’s interim athletic director after former athletic director James Robare, whose position was switched from a full-time one to a part-time gig last year, resigned earlier this month — said Thursday that he’s unsure what the future holds for Johnstown’s student-athletes.
“Right now, though, as far as I am concerned, we’re planning on going forward, even if it’s with fundraising or whatever,” said Satterlee, who previously served as the school’s athletic director and then as a junior high principal before retiring last year.
Satterlee added: “They’ll do right by the kids.”
On Thursday, representing their community was a driving force for the Lady Bills.
That motivation, they said, will remain for the duration of their postseason run.
“We love our community. We love our school. We’re proud of who we are, and we want people to feel proud, too,” Benton said. “It is emotional. It is very hard. But we’re going to get through this. We’re just at the beginning of it.
“We’re going to find a way.”
Holy Names 5 5 — 10
Johnstown 7 9 — 16
Holy Names scoring: Smith 3-0, Tronco 2-0, Granich 1-0, Mesick 3-0, Field 1-3. Johnstown scoring: Hollister 3-1, Etherton 2-3, Ringer 4-0, Tesi 3-0, Queeney 1-0, Delgado 2-0, Chapin 0-1, Memrick 1-0. Goalies: Holy Names, Harris, 17 saves. Johnstown, Manchester, 7 saves.