One of the leading scorers in Section II history, a junior who someday just might pass her, a pair of do-it-all players with multiple area championships to their credit and a dominant post player make up The Daily Gazette All-Area Girls' Basketball First Team for the 2019-20 season.
Saratoga Springs senior Dolly Cairns, who eclipsed the career 2,000-point mark while anchoring a young lineup, has been named to the Gazette’s first team for the third time after earning a second-team nod as a freshman. She is joined by Guilderland junior Valencia Fontenelle-Posson, a scoring sensation who moved past the 1,500-point mark late in the season.
The first-team cast also includes three more juniors in Meghan Huerter of two-time defending Section II Class AA champion Shenendehowa, Sophie Phillips of three-time defending Section II Class C champion Cambridge, and Olivia Olsen who starred in leading Niskayuna to an 18-3 season.
Huerter made the Gazette All-Area second team last season, while Fontenelle-Posson, Phillips and Olsen each made the third team last season.
The 2019-20 high school basketball season in New York was cut short before regional and state championships could be contested because of cancellations as part of the response to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Here's a look at the accomplishments of this season's first-team players.
DOLLY CAIRNS (SARATOGA SPRINGS)
"Legendary" is one of the words to describe Saratoga Spring senior guard Dolly Cairns. The University of Rhode Island commit completed her Blue Streak career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,033 points.
She averaged 26.4 points per game this season, with a high of 43, to go with 4.5 rebounds a game and 3.3 assists per game. After scoring her 1,000th point as a sophomore, the sky was the limit for Cairns.
"Just to watch her over the years, she was highly focused even at a young age, focused on learning and improving her skills," Saratoga Springs head coach Robin Chudy said.
Cairns’ competitive nature helped lead Saratoga Springs to Section II Class AA championship-game appearances last year and again this year.
"Everyone on the team was focused on one goal, which is winning," Chudy said. "That's always Dolly's thing, as well. It's what's best for the team and that's what I'm going to do."
Cairns helped freshman starters Natasha Chudy and Lauren Patnode grow into their roles while at the same time dealing with the opponent’s top defender night after night.
The next stop for Cairns — a New York Miss Basketball finalist — is Rhode Island where she will compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
"I think she's going to step on that court and change a lot of things with that program," Chudy said of the two-time Suburban Council Player of the Year. "I think she's just going to continue to grow and even get better, which is going to be really cool to see."
VALENCIA FONTENELLE-POSSON (GUILDERLAND)
Valencia Fontenelle-Posson faced every defense imaginable during her junior year, and still went out and broke just about every scoring record in the Guilderland record books.
"She's tenacious," Guilderland coach Chuck Mack said of the high school's all-time single game, single-season and career scoring leader. "It's the only word to describe her. No team we played could stop her."
The first-team Suburban Council all-star shined as Guilderland's primary ball handler and scoring leader, averaging 24 points per outing after netting 20.3 as a sophomore and 17.8 as a freshman. She set a school record with 427 points last season and blew that away with 529 this season to boost her varsity total to 1,530.
"There were no easy points," Mack said. "In one game, she got triple-teamed. She also saw double-teams, box-and-1, triangle-and-2. It was hard for her, but she's an elite player."
The 5-foot-10 junior scored from deep (she had 52 3s), from the line and by creating off the dribble, and also scored off steals and offensive rebounds. She netted a school record 39 points in a 54-46 Section II tournament win against Columbia, and set another Dutchmen record with six 3s in a follow-up 79-54 loss to Saratoga Springs.
Fontenelle-Posson had other games this season with 38, 34 and 33 points. Her high as a sophomore was 32.
"She does so much," Mack said. "She would be running on offense the whole 30 seconds, press and then guard the best player. I had to call timeouts just to get her a rest."
Colleges from all levels have expressed interest in Fontenelle-Posson, who used her size and grit to average seven rebounds per game, and used her quickness and anticipation to average four steals per contest.
"I want her to get better at everything, and will she? Yes," Mack said. "She will because she's a gym rat and she loves to play the game."
MEGHAN HUERTER (SHENENDEHOWA)
The Plainsmen's junior guard led the team in three different categories – 17 points per game, four assists per game and three steals per game. Meghan Huerter scored 389 points this year, drilling 63 3-pointers along the way.
"From the end of our [2018-19] season until the summertime, she was working out, working on her basketball skills," Shenendehowa head coach Joe Murphy said of the Suburban Council first-team all-star. "She took that time very seriously to improve her game."
There were also the intangibles.
"It's not something you can work on, but her leadership this year was tremendous — talking to the girls, talking to me," Murphy said. "She was just tremendous as a leader and that's not something you can work on in a gym, but that's where I think she grew the most."
Even as a sought-after recruit, the eyes on her never impacted her game.
"During the high school season she was all about the high school season, the high school team," Murphy said. "There wasn't any talk about colleges and all that stuff. She was just focused on Shen basketball."
Shenendehowa won its second straight Section II Class AA championship with Huerter playing a significant role. Huerter was named the Section II tournament’s MVP after her team's 60-56 win against Saratoga Springs, a game in which she went 5 of 6 from the line in the final 30 seconds.
"She's a competitive kid," Murphy said. "She wants to win every drill, she wants to win every game, win every possession."
OLIVIA OLSEN (NISKAYUNA)
She averaged 22.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, five blocks and three steals per game.
There’s only reason to think Olivia Olsen is going to be even better.
"The improvement she’s made from year to year has been unbelievable," Niskayuna head coach Sarah Neely said of her program’s junior star. "She hasn’t reached her peak yet."
But, well, what the 6-foot-2 forward delivered as a junior was exceptional. In her second full season playing varsity basketball, Olsen filled up the box score each game on her way to leading Niskayuna to an 18-3 record, a wins total that represented a program-best mark for Niskayuna during Neely’s 20 years leading the Silver Warriors.
"Her confidence on the court really made her shine," Neely said of Olsen, a Suburban Council first-team all-star.
Olsen made the leap to Gazette first-team status on the strength of incredible statistics delivered during a winning season for Niskayuna. Her season started with a win against Guilderland in which she scored 41 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and swatted six shots, and it didn’t slow down from there. Olsen produced a dozen double-doubles as a junior and flirted with a triple-double on a few occasions, like when she contributed 26 points, 20 rebounds and seven blocks in a win against Schenectady.
A number of Division I colleges from a wide range of conferences are interested in Olsen playing basketball for them after next season. Neely said a number of programs from the MAAC and other mid-major conferences are interested in Olsen, as are schools from the ACC, Big East and Big Ten.
"She’s a player that puts a ton of time into her game in the offseason," Neely said. "She never stops playing basketball."
SOPHIE PHILLIPS (CAMBRIDGE)
Sophie Phillips' value to Cambridge's championship team goes far beyond the way she protects and distributes the ball, the points she scores and the defensive stops she makes.
"She is the glue. She keeps us together," Cambridge coach Bob Phillips said of his daughter, the Indians' 5-foot-11 point guard. "She is the engine that drives us."
The engine roared this season, and Cambridge did, too, winning its third consecutive Section II Class C championship and putting together a 22-1 record. Sophie Phillips' part included a school-record 73 3-point baskets, 5.2 steals per game and more.
"The biggest thing she does is make everyone around her better," Bob Phillips said. "She will draw defenders and distribute and find them good shots. You're also talking about a super-competitive player, and the other girls follow her lead. They feed off of her play. It's an innate quality."
Sophie Phillips also has a knack for coming up big in big games, earning the Section II Class C tournament MVP award three times, and the state tourney MVP award in 2019 after she delivered 24 points and 17 rebounds in a 57-43 title-game win over Watkins Glen. Later that year, she was selected to the all-state first team.
"She has a drive," Bob Phillips said of the two-time Wasaren League MVP.
In her final outing this season, when Cambridge beat Maple Hill 68-44 for the area title, Sophie Phillips collected 21 points to push her career total to 1,327, and added six rebounds and six assists.
"She can hit the 3 and the mid-range jumper. She can drive right or left," Bob Phillips said. "We're a pressing team and she gets a lot of transition points, too."
Sophie Phillips averaged 17.2 points this season, with a high of 27 on the December night she reached 1,000. Her twin sister Lilly joined the 1,000-point club in February.
Dolly Cairns, 12, 5-7, Saratoga, 26.4
Valencia Fontenelle-Posson, 11, 5-10, Guilderland, 24.0
Meghan Huerter, 11, 5-10, Shenendehowa, 17.0
Olivia Olsen, 11, 6-2, Niskayuna, 22.5
Sophie Phillips, 11, 5-11, Cambridge, 17.2
Hailey Ballard, 12, 6-1, Queensbury, 12.9
Payton Graber, 10, 5-7, Schalmont, 20.2
Ahniysha Jackson, 12, 5-7, Albany, 19.8
Avery Mills, 8, 5-6, Mekeel Christian Academy, 22.1
Kelsey Wood, 12, 5-10, Averill Park, 14.3
Andie Gannon, 11, 5-10, Amsterdam, 15.3
Charli Goverski, 12, 5-9, Mechanicville, 15.6
Lilly Phillips, 11, 5-11, Cambridge, 15.2
Logan Thayne, 12, 6-2, Hoosick Falls, 23.9
Simone Walker, 12, 5-7, Shenendehowa, 7.5
Colonial Council: Grace Field (Holy Names), Madison Graham (Ichabod Crane), Bre Lott (Mohonasen), Sabrina Pressley (Cobleskill-Richmondville), Lauren Sanderson (Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk).
Foothills Council: Brinley Inglee (Hudson Falls), Anna Lee (Johnstown), Antonia May (Amsterdam), Jackie Stanavich (Amsterdam), Hope Sullivan (Queensbury).
Suburban Council: Jenalyse Alarcon (Troy), Rylee Carpenter (Shenendehowa), Natasha Chudy (Saratoga), Sareena DiCerbo (Colonie), Amelia Wood (Averill Park).
Wasaren League: Molly Brophy (Greenwich), Amy DiSiena (Mechanicville), Syrita Faraj (Tamarac), Fiona Mooney (Cambridge), Marley Mueller (Stillwater).
Western Athletic Conference: Abby Lombardoni (Fonda-Fultonville), Madison Meyer (Duanesburg), Mikyla Mitchell (Mekeel Christian Academy), Allison O'Hanlon (Duanesburg), Alexis Wright (Berne-Knox-Westerlo).
Others: Deja Beauford (Hudson), Janay Brantley (Catskill), Abigail Ranous (Warrensburg), Emma Shields (Emma Willard), Gaby Thomas (Fort Edward).
Michael Kelly, Stan Hudy and Adam Shinder contributed to this report.