CLIFTON PARK -- Simone Walker knew it wasn’t her best offensive night, but the senior guard on the Shenendehowa girls’ basketball team still had a job to do on the defensive end.
“I know all game long, things really didn’t go my way, but I just had to keep going,” Walker said.
Coming out of a timeout with 48 seconds left in a tie game Tuesday night against Averill Park, Walker -- who had spent much of her night on the defensive end trying to slow down standout Averill Park guard Amelia Wood -- made the biggest play of the night when she stole an inbounds pass, started a fast break and hit Rylee Carpenter at the other end of the floor for the go-ahead layup in Shenendehowa’s 54-50 Suburban Council win.
It’s the kind of defensive effort that Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy expects from Walker, whether she’s scoring or not.
“She wasn’t having a great shooting night, but her bread and butter is defense,” Murphy said. “She got a good tip, penetrated and kicked to Rylee up ahead, and that was the go-ahead basket.”
Walker only scored five points, but her effort on defense was crucial throughout the fourth quarter, and she and Kaitlyn Watrobski alternated defensive and offensive possessions for the Plainsmen (6-0, 10-0). Whenever Walker took the floor, she was determined to bring the energy Shenendehowa needed to pull out its closest game of the season.
“Things weren’t going my way offensively, but I knew when I got onto the floor, I had to do everything I could to help my team out defensively,” she said.
Heading into Tuesday, Shenendehowa had yet to be seriously challenged this season, reeling off nine straight wins by at least 15 points and scoring at least 68 points in every game.
Shenendehowa junior guard Meghan Huerter knew that would change against Averill Park (5-1, 10-2), the top-ranked Class A team in the state.
“It definitely shows what we need to work on coming forward into the season and getting into closer games,” Huerter said. “We hadn’t dealt with that adversity yet.”
The lead was never more than seven points for either team. A 7-0 run gave Averill Park a 48-43 lead with 5:22 left in the fourth quarter, but Shenendehowa finished the game on an 11-2 burst to capture the win. Kaitlyn Watrobski hit a key 3-pointer to turn the tide with 3:23 to play, and Bella Stuart muscled her way for a game-tying basket with 1:24 left that also fouled Stuart out of the game.
In the final minute, it was Shenendehowa’s defense that triumphed, with Walker’s steal setting up Carpenter for the go-ahead layup and Stuart coming up with a block on Anna Jankovic when Averill Park had a chance to tie the game in the final 10 seconds. Huerter hit a pair of late free throws to seal the win and finish with a team-high 13 points.
“I told the kids that it was like a 12-round heavyweight bout,” Averill Park coach Sean Organ said. “They got the last jab, and that was enough.”
Carpenter added 12 points, and Watrobski scored 11 for Shenendehowa.
Michelina Lombardi led Averill Park with 14 points, Amelia Wood scored 10 and both Jankovic and Kelsey Wood finished with nine.
Averill Park 13 14 13 10 - 50
Shenendehowa 14 16 11 13 - 54
Averill Park scoring: Lombardi 5-3-14, Jankovic 4-1-9, Lapinski 3-0-8, A. Wood 3-4-10, K. Wood 2-5-9. Shenendehowa scoring: J. Huerter 1-3-5, Walker 2-1-5, Carpenter 5-1-12, Carey 0-1-1, Watrobski 4-1-11, M. Huerter 5-3-13, Stuart 3-0-6, Lee 0-1-1. Scoring totals: Averill Park 17-13-50, Shenendehowa 20-11-54.