Saturday evening, the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team came up with all the big plays in the closing minutes of a decisive fourth quarter to defeat a battle hardened Mohonasen team 65-54 at Amsterdam High School, and advanced to the semi-finals of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Class A basketball tournament for the first time since 2008. It was also a record setting event for AHS junior Nina Fedullo, who became the first AHS girls basketball player to reach the 1,000 point mark.
“Our kids just toughened up,” said Amsterdam head coach Eric Duemler. “Kaitlin (Devine) getting to the basket, Autumn (Duemler) had a big block, and Nina’s (Fedullo) three were all big for us.”
It was anything but an easy night for an Amsterdam team that had not played competitively since defeating Glens Falls in the Foothills Council title game sixteen days ago. The Mohonasen Lady Warriors meanwhile had defeated Gloversville 59-45 on Wednesday night to advance to the quarter-final round. Mohonasen held a slim 54-52 lead against Amsterdam with 3:13 left to play after Quinn Roderick took a long pass from Saeeda Abdul-Aziz to the basket, but that would be the last points for the Lady Warriors as Amsterdam closed the game on a 13-0 run that was started by a play rarely seen in basketball.
Amsterdam had the ball in the Mohonasen end of the floor with AHS senior guard Kaitlyn Devine trying to inbound the ball under the basket. Devine got a little creative and bounced the ball off the backside of a Mohonasen player and then took the carom and put it up and through the net to tie the score. The play brought more cheers than laughs from the crowd and energized an already pumped up Lady Rams team.
“Only Kaitlyn (Devine) would do something like that,” Coach Duemler said. “That’s the play of a senior. You wouldn’t see Lucia (Liverio) do that.”
The Lady Rams tightened up on defense and didn’t give many good looks to the Mohonasen shooters, who had connected for 12 three point shots against Gloversville. A miss by Taylor Lupi was gathered in by Fedullo, who pulled up and hit a mid-range jump shot to give the Lady Rams the lead for good. A steal by Amsterdam’s Giuliana Pritchard on the next trip down the floor resulted in a put back by Devine expanding the AHS lead. Autumn Duemler grabbed another defensive rebound and seconds later, Fedullo connected for a three point shot that provided the Lady Rams with their largest lead of the game since the opening minutes of the first quarter.
“I was really excited to hit one,” said Fedullo on the three pointer. “To get ahead was a great feeling.”
The Lady Warriors were still determined to deny the Lady Rams, and with less than two minutes to play, Abdul-Aziz headed for the basket with only Autumn Duemler in her way. Duemler stood tall and blocked Abdul-Aziz’s shot and took the ball away from the Lady Warriors leading scorer, who finished the night with a team high 21 points. The Lady Warriors were forced to foul and Fedullo and Brady Santiago netted four of six free throws to wrap up the win.
“We kept in on them and wore them down,” Coach Duemler said. “If anything, we were able to get turnovers and that gave us energy.”
“We talk about it all the time, defense wins games,” Fedullo said.
Amsterdam trailed 24-21 at halftime, but had held the Lady Warriors to only seven points in the second quarter. The Lady Rams persistent defense continued to pay off as the teams resumed play with Devine turning a steal into a free throw, and a pair of steals by Giuliana Pritchard that led to points by Fedullo and a tie game. Abdul-Aziz kept up the fight for Mohonasen and put her team back in front 28-24 on consecutive trips down the floor.
“We knew we had to play physical,” said Pritchard, who finished the night with ten points, ten rebounds, and four steals. “We knew that Saeeda (Abdul- Aziz) is a great player, but we just had to put our hard hats on and play.”
On the next AHS possession, Pritchard answered for an Amsterdam offense that spent the better part of the night attacking the basket. The sophomore forward converted a free throw to complete a three point play cutting the Mohonasen lead to one. Amsterdam consistently drove to the rim and in the process picked up fouls. The result was a 24 for 38 performance from the line for the Lady Rams compared to 9 of 14 for Mohonasen.
“We wanted to make them play defense in the second half,” Coach Duemler said. “We attacked the basket, and Kaitlyn (Devine) and Lucia (Liverio) controlled the tempo of the game. There’s a lot of communication involved.”
A jump shot by Taylor Lupi kept Mohonasen in front, but Amsterdam showed a little bit of it’s own “inside-outside” game when Maria Lomanto connected from long range to tie the game at 30-30. The junior guard wasn’t finished and her next jump shot put Amsterdam in front for the first time since the opening minutes of the game. Mohonasen fought back with a drive by Elizabeth Brown and a three from Lupi to take a 35-32 lead, but Fedullo drilled another three to knot the score again, however it wouldn’t stay that way for long as Lupi dialed in again from three point range, her second of the game. The Lady Warriors junior guard had four of Mohonasen’s seven triples, with eight of her 16 points coming in the third quarter. This game however, was not to be decided from behind the arc.
Fedullo and Abdul-Aziz traded free throws in front of another drive by Pritchard on an assist by Devine. Pritchard came up with a steal that led to free throw by Devine at 39-39, the fourth tie of the period. Autumn Duemler’s strong drive to the rim then gave Amsterdam a 41-39 lead headed into the final quarter. Amsterdam was winning the battle on offense going to the basket against a Mohonasen defense that did its best to match up “man to man.”
“We thought we had an advantage if they played man to man (defense),” Coach Duemler said. “The Mohonasen girls gave us a good battle.”
The Lady Rams stretched their lead to five getting points from Duemler, Santiago, and Liverio, who took a pass from Grace Catena straight to the rim making it 47-42 in favor of Amsterdam. Mohonasen came to play and wouldn’t go down easy, and after a hook shot by Abdul-Aziz and a three from Lupi, Mohonasen tied the game up once again. Lupi’s last triple put Mohonasen back in front 50-49, the first of four lead changes over a four minute segment of the fourth quarter. Moments later, after a free throw by Pritchard, the AHS half court press forced a ten second violation by Mohonasen and gave Fedullo a chance to sink a pair of free trows and put Amsterdam in front. Megan Clute tied it up with a lay up off a rebound, and Roderick’s points came seconds later before the Lady Rams went on their decisive run.
Amsterdam (16-5) advances to the NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A semi-finals for the first time since 2008. The Lady Rams won the Foothills Council championship outright with a 59-56 victory over Glens Falls at the Glens Fall Civic Center back on February 4, and have now won three in a row. The win over Mohonasen is the team’s first over a Suburban Council opponent this season, and along with victories over Foothills Council foes Glens Falls and Hudson Falls, ranks among the challenges that some felt the Lady Rams could not overcome.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Pritchard on the team moving on in the tournament. “Last year we went out in the first round, and this year people were talking about Mohoasen and Troy, and not giving us a chance and that was motivating. We’re the ones who will be playing on Tuesday.”
Amsterdam will meet another Suburban Council opponent in Troy (11-10) in the first Class A semi-final on Tuesday night at Ballston Spa High School. The third seeded Lady Flying Horses defeated Lansingburgh 67-28 in the early contest on Saturday at AHS. Shalie Frierson led Troy with 20 points.
“Troy is a good opponent,” Coach Duemler said. “Troy’s center didn’t play today, but I’m sure we’ll see her on Tuesday.”
Mohonasen held a 17-11 lead after the first quarter with Abdul-Aziz leading five Lady Warriors with seven points. The Lady Rams compounded matters by hurrying their offense and not making good choices with shot selection. Amsterdam cleaned things up in the second quarter and began to chip away at the lead.
Trailing 24-15 Fedullo stepped to the free throw line and netted the first of two shots sending her into the record books for the second time this season as she became the first Amsterdam girls basketball player to score 1,000 points. Fedullo, who broke the career scoring mark earlier this season, noted the impact one little shot can have.
“Once I hit that foul shot the game just came to me,” said Fedullo, who scored a game high 27 points and collected 12 rebounds. “It just came to me and I really started playing the game.”
Fedullo scored the last eight points of the first half to keep Amsterdam close at 24-21. The third year varsity player still has one more season to play at Amsterdam and can continue to climb on the all time school scoring chart, both boys and girls. Among the standout players on the list is Fedullo’s father Lou, who scored 1,098 points for the Amsterdam Running Rams. Nina Fedullo has 1,020 points after Saturday’s win and could move past her father before season’s end.
“Hard work has been paying off,” Nina Fedullo said. “It was one of my goals to get to 1,000 points. My dad has been beating me at basketball in the driveway at home, but now I can beat him at something.”
Amsterdam put seven players in the scoring column including 12 points from Kaitlyn Devine, six from Autumn Duemler, five from Maria Lomanto, three from Brady Santiago, and two from Lucia Liverio. Rayven Roach had one block and one rebound, Jailene Irizarry added one rebound, and Grace Catena came up with one steal and one assist for Amsterdam.
Lupi’s 16 points was next on the charts for Mohonasen followed by seven points by Elizabeth Brown, five by Megan Clute, three by Alexis Lott, and two by Quinn Roderick.
The Lady Rams will take the court against Troy at Ballston Spa High School in the first game of the Class A semi-Finals at 6pm. Averill Park and Hudson Falls will play in the second game scheduled to tip at 7:30pm.
A win on Tuesday would send the Lady Rams to a Section 2 final for the first time since the 1993-1994 team made it to the Class B championship after going undefeated in the Big 10 Conference. That team lost only one game all season before the title contest. During the 1993-1994 NYSPHSAA girls basketball season, both the Amsterdam Lady Rams and the Saint Johnsville Lady Saints went undefeated in the regular season. A game was added before sectionals and billed as the “county championship” between the undefeated teams. On Thursday, February 17, 1994, two of the best teams in Section 2 took the floor at the Amsterdam High School gymnasium. Saint Johnsville won the game 63-42, but that didn’t stop the Lady Rams from reaching the Class B title contest before falling to Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. This year’s Lady Rams team has also been building on momentum from a very eventful season as well, and another milestone was achieved in the first half.
I was there at that game back on February 17, 1994 and it was literally standing room only. All of the bleachers were put in use and people were standing outside peering through the glass doors to the gymnasium despite the cold. Even though the Lady Rams lost that game, they were one of the few that challenged a Saint Johnsville team that went on to win a Class D championship. The 1993-1994 Amsterdam Lady Rams basketball team had a similar road to the title as this years team, having to defeat Class B defending champion Ichabod Crane in the quarter-finals, and then Lansingburgh in the semi’s before facing Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. Amsterdam led 22-16 at halftime in the final at Colonie High School before an uncharacteristic poor shooting performance in the second half brought their season to an end. The Lady Spartans were the only Suburban Council team the 93′-94′ team had faced all season, but the Lady Rams defied the odds and had a chance. The 2015-2016 Lady Rams will possibly have to face three Suburban Council teams to win the school’s first girls team sports title. Some could say that this year’s team has also defied the odds, but the Lady Rams don’t look at it that way. They’ve always believed they could win, and they’ve had incredible support from their booster club, many of them parents who don’t always get a chance to see them play. Tuesday night that will change, and the Lady Rams should see a near capacity crowd come out to watch them play.