Nearly twenty-two years have passed since the last time an Amsterdam High School girls basketball team played in a Section 2 final. Tuesday night, the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team used their heads, their hearts, and every fundamental skill they’d learned to defeat the Lady Flying Horses of Troy, 52-43 in a Class A semi-final at Ballston Spa High School and reached a sectional championship game for the first time since 1994.
“The girls have been working hard all year,” Amsterdam head coach Eric Duemler said. “One of our goals from the beginning of the season was to get to the finals.”
The Lady Rams trailed only once and that was after a shot by Troy’s Dominique Fiddemon put the Lady Flying Horses up 2-0 scarcely two minutes into the game. Amsterdam’s Nina Fedullo found the net on her first of many drives to the rim to tie the score, and took a pass from Kaitlyn Devine to put AHS in front 4-2. Fiddemon knotted things up one last time with a mid range jump shot before Lady Rams sophomore Giuliana Pritchard secured a rebound and put it back up and in giving Amsterdam the lead for good. Fedullo scored on the next Lady Rams possession and followed a trio of foul shots by Troy’s Sabrina Wolf with another drive for a 10-7 Lady Rams lead. Pritchard won the battle on the offensive boards and boosted the lead to 12-7 in front of a strong contingent of AHS fans. Fedullo and Pritchard teamed up to score 14 of Amsterdam’s 15 points in the first quarter. After the first eight minutes the Lady Rams led 15-7, but would need to fend off a Troy squad that had battled through a tough Suburban Council schedule.
Troy’s Shalie Frierson picked up her first points of the game on a steal to open the second period. The junior guard had put up 20 points in Saturday’s win over Lansingburgh but wouldn’t fare as well against a swarming AHS defense. Fedullo and Maria Lomanto made consecutive shots from inside the paint to give AHS a double-digit lead at 19-9. Madeline Brown got Troy on the scoreboard again with a lay up, but Fedullo went strong to the rim twice more and picked up four more points giving AHS its biggest lead at 23-11. Fedullo scored 16 of her game high 21 points in the first half, with ten coming in the first period. The Lady Rams rotated in several players off the bench to keep anyone from getting into serious foul trouble and it was that depth at every position that paid off when Troy went on a 7-0 run to end the half with the Lady Rams still in front 23-18.
“We knew they (Troy) would make some runs,” Coach Duemler said. “Credit to all the girls who’ve worked as hard as they could. Taking away the three’s and working hard on defense is what it takes to beat a team like Troy.”
As constant as the defense was, the Lady Rams offense was even more constant especially in the third quarter where the Lady Rams moved the ball around and got everyone involved, and as it has happened throughout the season, their opponent didn’t know who to focus on to stop.
Fedullo, the Lady Rams all time leading scorer who has over 400 points this season, scored the first point of the third quarter on a free throw at the 6:24 mark, but it was her only score of the period. Brady Santiago hit the first and only three for the Lady Rams bringing the crowd to its feet as AHS began to work an “inside-outside” game with their offense. Pritchard got a position inside against Troy center Micah Torres and took an inbound pass from Devine in for two more helping erase all but one point from Troy’s late second quarter run.
“I knew Troy’s guards would be defending our guards,” said Pritchard, who finished with nine points and six rebounds. “I had the taller girl (Torres) on me, and I knew if I got a step on her I could get to the basket.”
And while Pritchard helped the Lady Rams stay in control on the offensive boards, senior point guard Kaitlyn Devine was at her best in transition. Devine answered a basket by Wolf with a length of the court drive pushing the AHS lead to 31-20 and keeping Troy from building any momentum. Amsterdam’s multi-faceted offense continued to present challenges for Troy, and the Lady Rams defense continued to apply pressure contesting every shot, and continued to wear time off the clock.
“We love making plays as a team,” Devine said. “As a team we’re better when we’re passing, setting screens, finding the open shooters, and if a drive is there then coach (Duemler) would never tell us not to drive.”
“We’ve been working the ball around much better,” Coach Deumler said. “Five girls on the floor who all can score.”
Amsterdam’s Autumn Duemler responded to a a pair of free throws by Frierson with another offensive rebound for two more Lady Rams points. Amsterdam out-rebounded Troy 37-20, with Autumn Duemler (4 rebounds), Fedullo (team high 12 rebounds), Santiago (7), and Pritchard (6) teaming up to keep Troy’s Torres (7 rebounds) from posting up inside.
“We say it all the time, defense wins games,” Fedullo said. “We knew we had to lock down on defense, grab rebounds, and get back in transition.”
Wolf responded for Troy converting three shots from the line cutting Amsterdam’s lead to 33-25, but the Lady Rams continued to make their way to the rim drawing fouls along the way. Devine added a free throw on her next trip to the free throw stripe to keep the game just out of Troy’s reach. Wolf’s first triple of the game made it 34-28, however the Lady Rams had an advantage in another category, fouls. Amsterdam had committed only one foul with three minutes left in the quarter, but Troy was at its limit. Pritchard’s next drive put them over that limit and Amsterdam led 36-28.
“We were expecting a physical game,” Pritchard said. “Both teams have tough players and it was a great battle for all of us.”
The Lady Rams continued to find the net getting field goals and free throws from Santiago and Lomanto and maintained a 42-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The final period would begin in similar fashion as the previous one, but it would be a matter of withstanding another run by Troy before Amsterdam could clinch a trip to the title game.
Just like the third quarter, the Lady Rams defense ran a minute and a half off the game clock before anyone scored and collected fouls on Troy players along the way. Wolf, who led the Lady Flying Horses with 20 points, 15 in the second half, didn’t hit her second triple until the 6:30 mark. Amsterdam’s lead was sliced to five, but the Lady Rams continued to make their way inside and converted free throws on each trip to the line starting with one by Fedullo to keep AHS in front 43-37. Torres’ only points of the game came on one of the few offensive rebounds for Troy that then cut the lead to four, 43-39. Pritchard connected for another free throw keeping it a two possession game, and a pattern developed, all of the Lady Rams points in the fourth quarter came from the foul line. Amsterdam had pushed Troy over the limit on fouls and shot free throws for better than two minutes to close the game. And, even when the Lady Rams weren’t heading to the rim they used their heads and picked up fouls on Troy players.
Devine, who came up with a clever inbound play to tie the quarter-final game against Mohonasen last Saturday, drew a foul on Frierson during an inbound play and headed to the line with Amsterdam up 44-39.
“They had been playing extremely close,” Devine said. “I felt her (Frierson) put a hand on my back and I was on the floor.”
Devine hit both free throws to boost the Lady Rams lead back to seven. Another free throw by Fedullo with 1:22 left in the game kept it that way, and when Wolfe hit her last three, Amsterdam still held a four point lead. Time was running out, and Troy sent the Lady Rams to the line on every possession where Amsterdam scored the last five points of the game. Fedullo’s reach was hands above everyone else on a rebound attempt that gave her two more chances from the line, and a steal by Autumn Duemler finally sealed Troy’s fate, giving Amsterdam its first trip to the sectional finals since 1994. It also moved them one step closer to the program’s first Section 2 title.
“Nina (Fedullo) played great defense at the top of the zone,” Coach Duemler said. “Kaitlyn (Devine) played great defense the whole game on Frierson and the girls behind her in the zone were working extremely hard for every rebound. Many of the girls on this team have been on varsity three or four years and all the credit goes to them. It’s great to finally play in the finals. We’re the first team in years to get there and we are looking forward to it and ready for the challenge.”
Fedullo earned her tenth “double-double” of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Pritchard was next with nine points, Santiago followed with seven points, Devine had six, Lomanto finished with five points, and Autumn Duemler scored four for the Lady Rams. Grace Catena added a pair of rebounds, Lucia Liverio, Rayven Roach. And Jailene Irizarry each had one rebound, all of them giving Amsterdam key minutes on the floor in the winning cause.
“It’s been very exciting,” Fedullo said. “We can’t wait to go to the finals. It’s been something we’ve worked hard for all the time.”
Frierson followed Wolfe’s 20 point effort with ten points for the Lady Flying Horses. Fiddemon was next on the charts with four points, Brown had three points and six rebounds, Torres, Mariah Thomas, and Alaina Holmes each scored two points for Troy (11-11).
Amsterdam will face Averill Park in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Class A final at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy on Saturday at 4:15pm. Averill Park held off a late fourth quarter surge by Hudson Falls to win the second semi-final 54-45 Tuesday night at Ballston Spa High School. The Lady Warriors had trailed by nine in the first quarter but inched ahead 21-19 at halftime. Averill Park built a 42-28 lead in the second quarter keyed by a team high 13 points from Samantha Laranjo, but Hudson Falls went on a 10-0 run keyed by baskets from Sophie Lebrun and Naesha Kelly trimming the lead to 42-38, and later 49-45 on a shot by Bri McKinney with one minute to play. Averill Park made its free throws down the stretch to pull away for the win setting up the final against Amsterdam.
Authors note: It’s been 22 years since the last Amsterdam girls basketball team played in a sectional final, and I’ve waited that long to tell the story. Ever since I started sports writing, I’ve believed that it is important to pay attention to girls sports. During the 1993-1994 season I sent an editorial to the local paper urging people to come out to support the Amsterdam girls basketball team, and I was amazed when the AHS gym was filled over capacity in February 1994 at the Amsterdam and Saint Johnsville game. However, the 1993-1994 Lady Rams basketball team didn’t always have the same support that it had for that game. I remember many Lady Rams home games were played in front of only a handful of fans and boosters. Thankfully, this year’s team has always had plenty of support throughout the season. So, I still steadfastly urge the Amsterdam community to come out to Hudson Valley Community College on Saturday afternoon and support the Lady Rams as they shoot for history.
(Photos by Scott Mulford)