DELANSON — It’s often said that if you want to be good at something, you have to start at a young age.
For Duanesburg eighth-graders Alex Moses, Allison O’Hanlon and Hannah Mulhern, they’ve already gotten a jump on their varsity careers, starting each night for the school’s varsity girls’ basketball team.
“They may be in eighth-grade but they've been playing basketball their whole lives,” Duanesburg coach Chris Herron said after Wednesday’s 67-49 non-league win against Albany Academy. “They may be young, age-wise — but, basketball-wise, they're not young.
“They've always challenged themselves against quality opponents and always played up. . . . Here, I think it's no different. They step right in, want the ball and want to play.”
Those three eighth-grade are a big reason why Duanesburg is off to an 11-2 start this season. On a young team led by sophomore Madison Meyer who has already scored more than 1,000 points in her varsity career, the team’s trio of starting eighth-graders have helped form the core of one of the top teams in Section II Class C.
All three faced some nervousness heading into this season. All three, too, were confident they could contribute.
“At the beginning of the year, I wasn't taking any shots and I was nervous every game,” Moses said. “Now, I'm starting to get into my position and playing how I should be and becoming more confident about this year.”
“I've always had confidence in myself. But, for me . . . it was when the team was ready to have me,” O’Hanlon said of adjusting to the varsity level. “I've always been ready, but whenever they thought that they needed me, I was ready.”
As a whole, Herron’s program has helped create an environment where the young starters could thrive.
“I have been trying to boost my confidence and all that,” Mulhern said. “To be honest, the team has helped me and they're always trying to make me improve, and the coaches have really helped me with that, too.”
Like Wednesday night, when Mulhern spent much of the contest on the bench in foul trouble.
“I'm still trying to get used to the whole varsity thing and I have to be more confident in myself,” Mulhern said. “Tonight was a rough night, when I got that third foul, I just kind of shut down.”
So Olivia Ruth, the Eagles’ lone senior, helped pick her up. Ruth scored 10 points to help Duanesburg to its latest win, while O’Hanlon had 18 and Meyer added 17.
“When I practice, I try to work on every single thing. So, when I get into the game, whatever the defense gives me, I can just try to work off of that,” O’Hanlon said.
Duanesburg led 31-26 at halftime, then used a 23-10 third quarter to pull away for the win. More victories are expected to come later in the season for a team capable of putting together a strong postseason run in a classification that includes a Cambridge program that won last year’s state championship.
“This team, right now, we have all the confidence in the world,” O’Hanlon said. “This year, our goal is to meet Cambridge in the sectional finals.”
Herron won’t make any predictions regarding how this season turns out for his young team. He sees his team’s confidence growing, though, as it gains more experience.
“I don't think we talk about our youth or our age at all. We don't even say it now,” Herron said. “They may be eighth-graders, but they play like juniors and seniors. They're still learning and getting much better.”
Albany Academy 13 13 10 13 — 49
Duanesburg 19 12 23 13 — 67
Albany Academy scoring: Field 0-0-0, Juste 6-8-20, Burke 1-0-2, Ma. Ottati 4-3-11, Me. Ottati 2-2-6, Hubun 4-0-10. Duanesburg scoring: Moses 4-0-10, M. Meyer 5-6-17, Miakisz 1-2-4, O’Hanlon 8-0-18, T. Meyer 2-0-4, Mulhern 2-0-4, Ruth 4-2-10. Scoring totals: Albany Academy 17-13-49, Duanesburg 26-10-67.