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Looking back at a remarkable girls basketball season

They need to make some room on the walls of the Amsterdam High School gym for some new championship banners. Amsterdam sports teams have done well in their first year as part of the Foothills Council. This past October, the Lady Rams tennis team captured the school’s first Foothills Council title finishing with an undefeated record. Last month, the boys indoor track team earned their share of the league title and took it one step further with a Section 2 Division 2 championship. Most recently, the Lady Rams basketball team claimed the Foothills Council South Division title and finished with the league’s best overall record. Although their season recently ended in a sectional quarterfinal loss to Scotia-Glenville, this year’s Lady Rams basketball team delivered a phenomenal performance this season.

The 2014-2015 Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team began their season outside the United States in the historic city of Montreal, Canada. With passports in hand, they traveled to the province of Quebec where in addition to taking classes in French and learning about Canada’s national sport of hockey, they took to the court facing two of the better nationally ranked teams north of the border. Although Amsterdam dropped both contests, 72-40 to St. Laurent on November 29, 2014, and 76-60 to Fernand Lefebvre the following day, it would be the last time the Lady Rams would lose for quite a while.

Once back in the USA, the team embarked on an impressive 16 game winning streak, besting area teams such as Scotia-Glenville, Gloversville, Syracuse Corcoran, Schalmont, South Glens Falls, Glens Falls, Johnstown, Queensbury, and Broadalbin-Perth. The season’s high point was the team’s victory against the Scotia-Glenville Tartans to secure the South Division title. For me, it was one of the best games I’ve seen in a long time in the AHS gymnasium.

I think the success of the Lady Rams basketball team caught everyone by surprise, even the sportswriters. When the NYSSWA poll for girls high school Class A teams was released the following Tuesday after their tenth straight win, the Amsterdam Lady Rams were only listed as an honorable mention behind two teams they had already defeated, Scotia-Glenville and Glens Falls. Personally, I liked what I saw on the court: the teamwork on offense and defense, getting many people involved in scoring and most importantly, the will to win.

That spirit held strong even after the team suffered it’s first loss to Glens Falls, ending their 16 game winning streak. I watched as Nina Fedullo fought her way through an obstacle course of defenders to get to the basket. Many times, the Lady Rams had to wrestle to the floor for the ball before a whistle sounded. I was just hoping no one would get hurt. As a reporter I try be impartial but I couldn’t help but react when Caitlin Gannon hit a three point shot pulling AHS close to winning. With the clock winding down, Maria Lamonto scored five points in less than ten seconds. But the momentum didn’t swing Amsterdam’s way and Glens Falls ended up with the win.

“We played together and didn’t quit,” Gannon said after the game. And that was truly a characteristic of this team.

The next morning, members of the Lady Rams program hosted their annual clinic teaching the game of basketball to the next generation of Lady Rams, showing no signs of the loss the night before.

When the sectional pairings were announced the following week I was as surprised as anyone to see Amsterdam as a fourth seed and meeting up with Scotia-Glenville once again. Defeating your top league rival a third time in one season is never an easy task in any sport. But the Lady Rams had three wins against the Lady Tartans and Glens Falls while their rivals, head to head, only had one each. I read one publication that said “tradition and schedule” are considered when determining seeds. I guess the Lady Rams even surprised the tournament committee. My feeling is that one loss does not define a season. I would have put Amsterdam at number one and Scotia-Glenville at number two. If the other teams are as good as their tradition and schedule suggest, let them earn it. The Lady Rams already had.

The 2014-2015 Amsterdam Lady Rams basketball season ended in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Section 2 Class A quarterfinals at Troy High School on Februuary 27, 2015. The Lady Rams took an early lead, but gave up an uncharacteristic 60 points in their 60-45 loss to Scotia-Glenville. The game was only their second loss in Section 2. The team finished 16-4 overall.

If the Lady rams want to hang a 2015 Foothills Council champions banner in the AHS gym, I would have no problem with that. After all, they had the best record in the league despite the setback in Glens Falls. But, I imagine they would rather unveil a Section 2 champions banner instead, which is something next year’s team will certainly aim to accomplish.

In my opinion, both Nina Fedullo and Caitlin Gannon should receive consideration when the Foothills Council All- Star teams are selected, and have reason to be in the conversation for the leagues’ most valuable player.

Fedullo, a sophomore forward in her second year on varsity, has been the Lady Rams leading scorer (292 points this season -Section 2) in nearly every game this season. Her most impressive performance came in Amsterdam’s second game against Scotia-Glenville on January 30th at AHS when she posted her third “double-double” collecting 35 points and 18 rebounds against one of the top 25 ranked Class A teams in New York State. The Lady Rams defeated the Lady Tartans 49-47 in overtime, and it was Fedullo’s decision making on the final play, a pass to Autumn Duemler for the winning basket, that demonstrated her growing maturity as a leader on the team.

Gannon, a senior guard and three year starter for the Lady Rams has provided invaluable leadership on the court. The 16 game win streak that started when Amsterdam returned to action in Section 2 would never have happened had it not been for her efforts against Schalmont in the finale of the Amsterdam Holiday College Showcase at AHS on December 28, 2014. The Lady Rams trailed by 19 points in the second half and seemed ineffective in stopping the Lady Sabres’ top scorer Hailee Metzold. The Lady Rams switched to a “man to man” defense with Gannon their last hope of stopping one of Schalmont’s career leaders in points. Not only did Gannon stop Metzold, but when her opponent picked up her fifth foul early in the fourth quarter, Gannon took control and led her team to victory with a pair of clutch three point goals and assists on scores by Giuliana Pritchard and Brady Santiago, putting Amsterdam in front to stay. The senior captain played more minutes in that game than anyone on both teams, and her decision making on the court has been an important factor in several Lady Rams comebacks this year. During the closest games, when time was not on their side, Gannon made a three point shot that either kept it a one possession game, tied the game, or gave the Lady Rams the lead. Gannon, like her teammate Fedullo also put up a “double-double” against a Foothills Council foe with a 10 point, 10 rebound, and five assist effort at AHS on January 13, 2015 against top 25 ranked Glens Falls. The Lady Rams triumphed 64-52, a win that may have been overlooked when the Class A seeds were determined. Caitlin Gannon has decided to continue her basketball career at the college level.

There are several Lady Rams players who I think should receive at least honorable mention consideration for the All Stars team. Among them are junior point guard Kaitlyn Devine, freshman forward Giuliana Prtchard, sophomore guards Brady Santiago, and Maria Lamonto, and juniors Braelin Aldi, and Autumn Duemler.

Fedullo will be counted on for leadership on the court when the Lady Rams return to the AHS gym for the 2015-2016 basketball campaign. Amsterdam will be more familiar with their opponents in the Foothills Council and will look to repeat as South Division and overall Foothills Council champions.

There will be several candidates vying to fill the role of Gannon’s shooting guard position. Santiago, Lamonto, and Grace Catena are among them. However, Gannon’s character and heart when staring down adversity in comeback win after comeback win will be hard to replace. The character of a team captain is not measured in wins and losses, but on how she leads her team. Gannon did that faithfully throughout the season.

The Lady Rams season should not be measured on how they finished, but on what they accomplished. Playing in a new league with many opponents they had not faced before and posting the league’s best record is rare. The fact that night after night they found a different way to win with everyone contributing is remarkable. They understood the definition of teamwork and demonstrated it on the court.

About Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.

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