SARATOGA SPRINGS — It was with action rather than words that Dolly Cairns announced her return to the Saratoga Springs girls' basketball team's starting lineup Thursday night.
And it was a triumphant return, as well.
The star senior guard took her team's first shot and swished a 3-pointer, and then went about doing all of the other things she usually does in a 79-54 Section II Class AA quarterfinal win over Guilderland.
"That first shot, that was a good start," Cairns said. "That got me going. Got my confidence going. It got my team going, too."
Cairns, who had missed Saratoga's final two regular season games with a collarbone injury, scored only those three points in the first quarter when the Blue Streaks were building an 18-9 lead. She added 10 in the second quarter and seven more in the third as the state's No. 4-ranked team extended its advantage.
Cairns and Lauren Patnode ended up sharing Saratoga's scoring honors with 20 points apiece.
"The past couple of days in practice she was getting a little stronger," Saratoga coach Robin Chudy said. "Yesterday she said, 'I'm good.'"
Cairns injured her collarbone late in Saratoga's 57-54 win at Shenendehowa on Feb. 11 when she and Simone Walker fell to the court while wrestling for the ball during a tie-up situation. Cairns finished that game, and missed Saratoga's follow-up wins over Troy (64-37) and Colonie (45-42) to close out the regular season.
"I didn't know what happened at that point," Cairns said of the moment she sustained her injury. "There were five seconds left and we needed a defensive stop. I raised my arm to kind of test it, and I was hurting."
Cairns, who played Thursday with her right shoulder area taped up, said she sustained a joint sprain. She also said afterward that she was not in pain.
"I had to be patient," Cairns said. "I had to ease back into it."
That was not the case Thursday when she took in a pass from Katie Cleason on Saratoga's first offensive possession, fired from beyond the 3-point line, and connected to give the Blue Streaks (No. 1 seed, 20-1) a lead they never surrendered.
"A win," Saratoga's all-time scoring leader said when asked what pleased her most about Thursday's contest. "My biggest goal is to win a sectional title, and this hopefully was the beginning of that."
Cairns sank a trio of 3s and collected five assists and three steals. After her final theft in the third quarter, she drove hard to the basket, drew a foul while getting knocked to the court and then sank two foul shots to give the Blue Streaks a 54-31 lead with 3:17 to go. Chudy pulled her all-star guard from the game after the foul shots, and Cairns did not return as the Blue Streaks salted away their second win over Guilderland (No. 8, 6-16) this season.
"When she took that hit and I saw her fall to the ground, I said,'That's it. No more tonight,'" Chudy said. "We wanted to get her in there and get her going, but she's still not 100%. Now she has another week to get stronger."
Patnode scored 17 first-half points as Saratoga rolled to a 41-23 lead. Abby Ray and Natasha Chudy both scored 11 points for Saratoga, which suffered its only loss on Jan. 11 against the state's No. 8 Class AA team, Bishop Kearney, 60-57 in overtime.
"Dolly is steady for us, but I've got three or four other girls who can step up and give us double digits," Robin Chudy said.
Valencia Fontenelle-Posson paced Guilderland with 25 points after netting 39 in her team's 54-46 first-round win over Columbia. Fontenelle-Posson also had eight rebounds, and three steals, and Graycen Dubin added 11 points.
Saratoga, the 2019 Class AA runner-up to Shenendehowa, will meet Shaker (No. 5, 14-7) in a semifinal game next Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Hudson Valley Community College. Shaker outlasted Colonie (No. 4, 14-7) in overtime in the first game of Thursday's doubleheader 53-50.
SARATOGA SPRINGS 79, GUILDERLAND 54
Guilderland 9 14 17 14 — 54
Saratoga 18 23 21 17 — 79
Guilderland scoring: Dubin 3-4-11, Fontenelle-Posson 8-3-25, Gitto 2-0-6, Serravillo 0-1-1, Wronoski 2-0-5, Waldron 0-2-2, DiPipino 2-0-4. Saratoga Springs scoring: Cairns 7-3-20, Ray 4-2-11, Spain 1-0-3, Cleason 2-2-6, Carminucci 0-2-2, Chudy 4-3-11, Patnode 8-4-20, Wise 3-0-6. Scoring totals: Guilderland 17-10-54, Saratoga Springs 29-16-79.
SHAKER 53, COLONIE 50 (OT)
Colonie 12 8 8 16 6 — 50
Shaker 12 8 14 10 9 — 53
Colonie scoring: Tyler 1-1-4, DiCerba 4-1-9, Ah. Pearson 3-5-13, Av. Pearson 1-0-2, Trimarchi 2-4-9, Blake 3-6-12. Shaker scoring: DeBeatham 3-5-12, Gordon 3-4-13, Carter 4-1-9, Carrington 3-7-13, Mahoney 3-0-6. Scoring totals: Colonie 14-17-50, Shaker 16-17-53.