FONDA — One of the more noteworthy stories that came out of last season's Section II girls' basketball tournament ended with Fonda-Fultonville coming up short in the Class B final against Mechanicville.
As the No. 13 seed and with four freshmen filling significant roles, the Braves rattled off four double-digit tournament wins to get there, and earned a chance to bring home the program's first championship.
"Winning those games and pushing out the top seeds created a foundation of confidence," Fonda-Fultonville senior Abby Lombardoni said. "It set us up."
The Braves haven't lost a game since, showing that playoff run wasn't such a big surprise after all, while further strengthening their belief that this could be the breakthrough season.
Fonda-Fultonville hasn't had a sectional basketball champion since 2010, when its boys' team went the distance and ended a four-decade drought.
"You feel it," fourth-year Fonda-Fultonville varsity girls' coach Flip Boshart said. "They feel it."
"I was on the volleyball team that lost in the [Class C] final last year. We got there again this year and lost again," Fonda-Fultonville senior Krystal McSpirit said. "I don't want to end my school career with four sectional loses. We want the white patch."
Fonda-Fultonville's sectionals prep included a three-game stretch of road games just after the Christmas break, when the Braves rallied each time to knock off Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, Cobleskill-Richmondville and Duanesburg. The Braves trailed Ravena by 11 points with a minute left in the fourth quarter, stormed back, and prevailed 59-56 in overtime.
"When we do get down, we don't get the feeling of, 'Oh, we're losing,'" McSpirit said. "We know we can come back. You've got to have the right mindset."
"We've had some good games that have tested us mentally," Boshart said. "Since day one of this year, I've told the girls we're going to get everyone's best. Each one of those games has been a building block."
The building began last February when Fonda-Fultonville eased past Corinth in its sectional opener and then took out No. 4 Voorheesville, No. 5 Schalmont and No. 1 Tamarac before losing to No. 2 Mechanicville and finishing with an 18-7 mark.
"We played a great half," Boshart said of that 56-43 title-game setback. "They [Mechanicville] went on a big run, and we lost our legs."
Seven girls are back from that edition, including junior Avery Cusack and the sophomores that came up so big as ninth-graders in Carly Atty, Lyndsay Lombardoni, Kayla Smith and Marilyn Whitcavitch. Whitcavitch had the game-winning basket in the final seconds when the Braves clipped Cobleskill-Richmondville 53-51.
"I had the four sophomores as seventh-graders on the modified team," current Fonda-Fultonville junior varsity coach Teri Brandt said. "I knew right there it was a special group. I knew it was going to blossom into something big."
Fonda-Fultonville beat Johnstown and Mekeel Christian Academy to begin its campaign, and with its make-the-extra pass offense and aggressive defensive style, stretched its win streak to 10 games Tuesday with a 46-14 victory over Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville.
Fonda-Fultonville boosted its Western Athletic Conference mark to 7-0 with that victory, prevailing easily even with Abby Lombardoni and Whitcavitch both out while recovering from a virus.
"Overall, I am happy with how we're playing," Boshart said. "We're working on the little things now. We're at the point of getting sharp and sectional-ready."
"We want to keep this momentum going," said Abby Lombardoni, who reached the career 1,000-point plateau when the Braves beat Schoharie for their third victory. "A major goal for me and the team is to stay undefeated heading into sectionals."
The Fonda-Fultonville boys did that back in 2010, and then strung together four more playoff wins to emerge as the Section II champion.
"We have the community behind us," Abby Lombardoni said. "They know we can do it. We know we can do it. Bringing it home would mean everything."
The Mohonasen boys have won three straight games following a six-game slide, extending their streak with a 54-52 Colonial Council victory at Catholic Central Monday when Tim Febbie dropped in a tie-breaking layup with two seconds left.
"Losing six in a row, it was tough," first-year Mohonasen coach Graham Macbeth said. "Give the guys credit. They've responded."
Febbie worked his way around a double screen, accepted long inbound pass from Tyler Reinke from the sideline, and drove for the winning basket against Catholic Central.
"They were doubling Shawn [Gillisslee] and Tyler made a great pass over their defense," Macbeth said. "It was a [former Mohonasen coach] Josh Peck play and it worked. It was a great inbound pass and it was a big moment for Tim."
Mohonasen (4-3 Colonial Council 5-7 overall) beat Cobleskill-Richmondville 41-17 to snap its slide and then edged Cohoes 49-47 on Gillisslee's layup with three seconds left. Reinke set that hoop up, too, with a baseline feed.
Macbeth said he had a chat with the man he replaced, former Mohonasen coach Ray Kearney, after his team's losing skid reached six games. Among those were a 5-point setback against Voorheesville and 4-point losses against Schalmont and Catskill.
"Ray was saying that when things aren't going so well, it's easy to change things up. He said, 'We have a good system. Trust the system'," Macbeth said. "The kids believed in that and we're turning things around."
Jake Reinisch of Shenendehowa and Travis LaFountain of Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville also delivered final-second, game-winning baskets over the past week. Reinisch sank a 3-pointer from 25 feet away to give Shenendehowa a 42-41 Suburban Council win over Colonie Friday. LaFountain scored on a scoop in traffic to lift OESJ over Adirondack 47-46 in a non-league contest Saturday.
Career points milestone reached by Schalmont sophomore Payton Graber and Watervliet senior J.J. Chestnut Tuesday, and by Duanesburg sophomore Madison Meyer Friday. Graber and Chestnut both hit the mark with 34-point performances in Colonial Council wins over Voorheesville (71-35) and Ichabod Crane (73-59), respectively. Meyer scored 18 when she joined the elite 1,000-point club in a 65-48 Western Athletic Conference win over Berne-Knox-Westerlo.
Noah Foster of Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons joined the 1,000-point club a week ago Wednesday, and before the Christmas break, Taylor Meacham of Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Jackson Atty and Abby Lombardoni of Fonda Fultonville, Hope Sullivan of Queensbury, Sophie Phillips of Cambridge and Bre Lott of Mohonasen reached the milestone figure.
Career points for Albany Academy senior Andre Jackson after the University of Connecticut commit scored 16 in Sunday's 61-51 win over Cardinal Hayes at the Empire Invitational in the Bronx. The Amsterdam native can become the third Cadet in recent seasons to reach 1,000-point plateau Saturday against Sanford (Delaware) at the HoopHall Classic in Massachusetts. August Mahoney reached 1,000 last season and Hameir Wright hit the milestone in the 2016-17 campaign.
Consecutive Wasaren League wins for the Hoosick Falls boys' basketball team after it topped Waterford-Halfmoon Tuesday 76-57. Jon Kempf scored 24 points, and fellow senior Tristan Williams had 22 points and 14 rebounds in the Panthers' 86th league win in their last 88 games.
Points scored by Jackson Brown in Catholic Central's 54-52 loss to Mohonasen Monday. The senior's season high included a 9-for-9 effort from the foul line and seven 3-point baskets, his last tying the game at 52 with 20 seconds left. The son of University at Albany men's basketball coach Will Brown also knocked down seven 3s a week ago Tuesday in a win over Ichabod Crane.
Points piled up by the Mekeel Christian Academy boys in the fourth quarter of their 96-90 non-league win over Green Tech Tuesday. Junior Alex Barnhill scored 19 of his 32 points in the final frame to spark a 35-20 run by the Lions. Green Tech went on a 35-22 third-quarter run to go up 70-61.