CLIFTON PARK — The Saratoga Springs girls' basketball team finally got the best of Shenendehowa in a game that really mattered.
Dolly Cairns scored all 17 of her points in the second half, and the resilient Blue Streaks edged the Plainsmen 57-54 in a Suburban Council contest Tuesday night that featured big runs and most likely settled the No. 1 Class AA seed for the upcoming sectionals.
"It's really sweet, but we've got to stay focused because we'll see them again," Saratoga junior Katie Cleason said.
There's a good chance that happens in the Section II tournament, where Shenendehowa topped Saratoga last season for the area title. Saratoga had beaten Shenendehowa early that season, and the Painsmen prevailed in a Suburban Council rematch before doing it again.
"We take it game by game, but if that opportunity comes, we'll try to execute even better," Shenendehowa senior Kaitlyn Watrobski said. "We'd love that opportunity."
A rematch would make for great basketball theater after the state-ranked teams built leads and lost them in a wild affair Tuesday before a large crowd in the Shenendehowa gym. The outcome left Saratoga 11-0 in the league (17-1 overall) and dropped Shenendehowa — the likely No. 2 sectional seed — to 10-1 (16-1 overall).
"Both of these teams have incredible players, and we expected a back-and-forth game like that," Shenendehowa senior Simone Walker said. "Unfortunately, it didn't go our way."
A tie-up between Walker and Cairns gave Shenendehowa possession and a final chance with six seconds left, yet the Plainsmen missed twice on long shots before time expired.
Cairns was shaken up on the tie-up, and although she played defense afterward, she was made unavailable for comment afterward by Saratoga coach Robin Chudy.
"She got hurt on the tie-up," Chudy said. "For her to step back on the court after that, that's a real player."
Saratoga's all-time scoring leader, Cairns scored nine points in a 16-1 run to start the third quarter as the Blue Stteaks turned a 38-28 deficit into a 44-39 lead. The Rhode Island-bound senior's final eight points came in a game-closing 13-3 run, which included her two foul shots that made it 57-54 with 22 seconds left.
"She didn't say, 'I need the ball,'" Chudy said. "I did."
Cairns went 0-for-4 from the field in the the first half, which included a long heave as time expired. Shenendehowa had effectively alternated defensive players against the senior, who came in averaging 27 points.
"We know she [Cairns] is a phenomenal player," Watrobski said. "It's crazy that we were able to do that to her in the first half. In the second half, she went off."
Cairns popped a 3-pointer to begin Saratoga's 16-1, third-quarter flurry and added two short jumpers and two free throws in a sign of things to come.
"In the second half, she took over in that stretch to get them back in the game," Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy said.
"In the second half, we changed our defense, and [we] figured out how to get Dolly open," Chudy said.
Cairns and Abby Ray both sank 3s in Saratoga's 13-3 surge in the fourth quarter, with Ray's long shot giving the Blue Streaks a 55-51 lead before Walker answered with a three-point play. After both teams had an empty trip, Cairns extended her team's advantage with a pair from the line.
"Dolly stepped up when we needed her," Chudy said.
Natasha Chudy had 12 points for Saratoga, Ray totaled 10 and Lauren Patnode and Cleason both finished with nine for the state's No. 5 team. Patnode also grabbed 10 rebounds.
"We played five girls the whole game, and they each contributed to our game," Robin Chudy said, before adding. "Our team has a lot of heart. They didn't get down on one another. Those rose each other up."
The Plainsmen displayed their grit, too, with a 9-0 run to close the third quarter, and when Rylee Carpenter began the fourth with a 3, the hosts had built a 51-44 lead.
Walker led the state's No. 3 team with 13 points and five assists, Meghan Huerter scored 11 points and Carpenter notched nine. Walker scored twice on drives and set up two baskets during Shenendehowa's 15-0, second-quarter run when the Plainsmen's lead grew to 29-13.
"We would like an opportunity to see them again, but nothing is given," Murphy said.
Saratoga 13 15 16 13 — 57
Shenendehowa 14 24 10 6 — 54
Saratoga scoring: Cairns 5-5-17, Ray 3-2-10, Cleason 3-0-9, Chudy 3-6-12, Patnode 4-1-9. Shenendehowa scoring: J. Huerter 2-0-4, Walker 6-1-13, Carpenter 4-0-9, Watrobski 3-0-7, M. Huerter 4-1-11, Stuart 2-1-6, Lee 1-0-2, Flannery 1-0-2. Scoring totals: Saratoga 18-14-57, Shenendehowa 23-3-54.