JOHNSTOWN — The Amsterdam girls' basketball team is in the hunt for a Foothills Council title, ranked No. 16 among the state's Class A grouping and owns 10 wins with the regular season just beyond the halfway mark.
Defense is a big reason for all of that.
"It's our biggest weapon," Rams junior Antonia May said. "We rep it every day in practice."
And on nights like Thursday when its offense is just so-so, Amsterdam can still flourish like it did at Johnstown's expense.
The Rams held the Lady Bills scoreless for nearly five minutes to start the second quarter in building a 28-10 lead, and soared from there in a 70-46 league victory.
"What hurt us was the turnovers," Johnstown coach Tim Derwin said after his team committed 28 of them. "They have length and quickness."
Amsterdam hit Johnstown with an effective zone press in the first half to cause chaos and pull away after the Lady Bills had taken an 8-6 lead on a putback basket by Abby VandeWalker. Amsterdam closed the first quarter with an 11-2 run, and then scored 11 unanswered points when the hosts went through their second-quarter drought.
"The first couple minutes, they were right there with us," May said. "You could tell they wanted to win just as much as we did. We had to pick up the pace."
Amsterdam built a 37-20 halftime advantage and was never challenged from there in a game similar to Monday, when the Rams won at Schuylerville 72-34.
"Trapping is the key to our press, and our length helps," May said.
Amsterdam (8-1 league, 10-2) forced Johnstown (5-4, 5-5) into 10-second violations in each of the first two quarters, when the Lady Bills failed to get the ball over halfcourt.
"That's all five girls doing slides the right way," Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler said. "No one was trying to be a hero."
Johnstown knew the press was coming, having seen it early in the season in a 70-57 loss at Amsterdam.
"We tried to break it down on film," Derwin said. "It's another thing to get it there."
Amsterdam was tough in the halfcourt, too, with its man-to-man defense and with its 1-3-1 zone that has May at the top.
Amsterdam finished the game with 18 steals. Andie Gannon collected five of them, and Sydney Hoefs and Jackie Stanavich both had four. Amsterdam's stat chart also included 20 defensive deflections.
"He's [Duemler] got the package, and he plays to his strengths," Derwin said.
May scored 12 of her 17 points in the first half, and Gannon scored 10 of her 17 during that key stretch. Hoefs and Stanavich both delivered 12 points in what was the second of five straight road games for the Rams.
"On the bus ride, we tell everyone it's a business trip," May said. "On the way back, we get to celebrate."
Amsterdam is in second place behind Queensbury (9-0, 10-0) in the Foothills Council, and its lone league loss came against the Spartans on Jan. 6 54-48. Amsterdam hosts Queensbury Feb. 10 in a rematch that could decide the league championship that the Spartans claimed last season.
"One at a time," Duemler said. "We want that Queensbury game to mean something. We can't have any slip ups."
Johnstown lost to Queensbury Monday 71-36 before running into Amsterdam.
"We had a tough week with Queensbury and Amsterdam. They are both state-ranked in Class A," Derwin said. "We'll look at the things we did well and the things we can do better."
VandeWalker had 13 points and seven rebounds, and Anna Lee scored 10 points for Class B Johnstown.
Amsterdam 17 20 23 10 — 70
Johnstown 10 10 10 16 — 46
Amsterdam scoring: Gannon 6-5-17, Goodson 1-0-3, S. Hoefs 4-2-12, Lamont 3-0-7, May 5-5-17, Sculco 1-0-2 Stanavich 4-4-12. Johnstown scoring: Wilson 4-1-9, Pratt 2-0-4, Lee 4-2-10, Sasaki 2-1-5, VandeWalker 6-1-13, Tesi 1-0-2, Mraz 1-0-3. Scoring totals: Amsterdam 24-16-70, Johnstown 20-5-46.
Reach Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.