TROY – Saratoga Springs girls' basketball coach Robin Chudy, like most coaches, will be the first to tell you that it’s difficult to beat a team three times in one season.
On Thursday night, her top-seeded Saratoga squad met Shaker for a third time this season, with the latest installment possessing the highest stakes – a trip to the Section II Class AA championship game.
And just like the other two meetings, Saratoga flourished, this time cementing its case as the team to beat in 2019-20, posting a 66-48 victory over Shaker in the Section II Class AA girls' basketball semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College.
“Shaker wanted us because they lost to us twice this year,” Chudy said. “I reminded the girls all week about that. They match up very well with us because they have a lot of big girls who are really talented. I thought we did a really good job of staying focused.”
Saratoga won the first two meetings by scores of 67-51 and 66-29, and it never gave Shaker a chance in the third contest, leading from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer. Saratoga’s Dolly Cairns led all scorers with 33 points, including 18 in the first half. The Rhode Island-bound senior scored her 2,000th career point midway through the second quarter.
“Dolly is truly special,” Chudy said. “Not many players score 1,000 points, and for her to get 2,000 is really special. I don’t know if I’ll ever see another player in the area like her. She’s so calm and confident on the court. She can get her shot off from anywhere. She can drive to the basket, she can pull up and take a shot and she can pass. So you never know what she’s going to do.”
Saratoga advances and will play second-seed Shenendehowa in the Section II Class AA title game on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Hudson Valley Community College. The two teams last played each other back on Feb. 11 with Saratoga pulling out a hard-earned 57-54 victory.
“I’m really excited about facing Shen,” Cairns said. “It’s going to be an awesome game.”
Cairns was nearly unstoppable on the night, hitting 11 of 19 from the field. She also finished with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. In the first half alone, Cairns connected on 6 of 7 from the field, 2 for 2 from 3-point range and 4 for 4 from the free throw line.
“This is my senior year, and I’ve been down this road before,” Cairns said. “The difference tonight was that we played well on the defensive end and made more shots.”
It was close early on, with Saratoga leading 8-7 midway through the first quarter before taking charge with a 6-0 run to go up 14-7. From there, the Blue Streaks led 16-10 after one quarter and ran off five unanswered points to open up the second quarter to lead 21-10.
Saratoga led 32-16 at halftime, and 48-34 after three quarters.
Tash Chudy contributed to the win with 13 points and five rebounds, and Abby Ray finished with eight points and five assists.
Jules DeBeatham scored 20 points to lead Shaker.
Saratoga 14 15 19 15 – 66
Shaker 10 6 18 14 – 48
Shaker scoring: DeBeathem 6-5-20, McCarthy 3-0-7, Carter 1-0-3, Mahoney 3-1-7, Carrington 1-0-2, Britt 1-0-2, Gordon 3-1-7. Saratoga Springs scoring: Cairns 11-7-33, Ray 3-0-8, Claeson 1-0-3, Chudy 4-4-13, Patnode 2-2-6, White 1-0-3. Scoring totals: Shaker 18-7-48, Saratoga Springs 22-13-66.