Don’t ask the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team where the panic button is, they don’t have one. Turnovers, foul trouble, and a twelve point lead that evaporated in the second half couldn’t put a dent in the confidence that was established on the court Thursday night as the Lady Rams basketball began with a home opening 65-59 victory over the Gloversville Lady Dragons at Amsterdam High School.
With five senior players graduating last year, the Amsterdam team began the 2017-2018 campaign looking alot different. The team’s roster includes three freshman: Antonia May, Jackie Stanavich, and Charlie Beekman. Both May and Stanavich started Thursday’s game alongside veteran seniors Giuliana Pritchard and Lucia Liverio, as well as junior Elena Fedullo. All three showed they had the maturity to compete on the varsity level, and each played an important role in the Lady Rams win over their Foothills Council rival.
“They didn’t play like freshman,” said Pritchard, one of four Amsterdam varsity seniors. “They played like experienced varsity players. They brought everything to the table. I’m proud of them.”
Stanavich complimented Pritchard’s team high 20 points with a formidable game of her own showing her ability to get to the basket, something she made opposing teams quickly take note of during a summers’ worth of basketball with the Amsterdam Xplosion team. Stanavich led the AHS freshman with 15 points and recorded her first “double-double” with ten rebounds. May had the difficult task of guarding one of the Foothills Council’s leading scorers in Harmony Philo, who poured in a game high 29 points, but only six in the pivotal fourth quarter thanks mostly to Amsterdam’s switch to a man-to-man defense. May’s defensive skills were very effective in not allowing Philo many good looks at the basket.
Beekman saw playing time in the first half when fouls started to accumulate forcing both teams to look to their benches for a needed boost. Beekman gave AHS energy on the defensive end and accounted for a pair of steals that led to Amsterdam scoring possessions. If anyone had questions about how well the freshman would gel with the seniors, they were answered by the time the final bell sounded.
“I knew my team had good chemistry,” said Pritchard. “Now, everyone else knows it too.”
That chemistry was put to the test in the second half as Gloversville chipped away at a 12 point lead eventually breaking out on top 55-53 after a pair of free throws by Lady Dragons’ senior Kerri Hauser. Momentum began to shift in the AHS gym as Hauser’s second make brought the Gloversville fans to their feet. The Lady Dragons crowded Pritchard close to the rim, but they left senior Taylor Flint open on the wing and behind the three point arc. Flint showed no mercy and rained down a pair of clutch threes that regained the lead for the Lady Rams at 59-56, and they never trailed again.
“Taylor hitting those shots was big,” said AHS senior Lucia Liverio. “She hits them all the time in practice. I knew I could count on her.”
Flint showed how much her game has improved on the defensive side as well blocking a shot by Alex Benfatti driving to the rim on Gloversville’s next trip down the court. Stanavich corralled the deflection and turned it into a free trow on the other end making it a four point game with just over two minutes left. A key defensive rebound by Lady Rams’ Elena Fedullo ended the next Gloversville possession, and a pair of uncharacteristic free throw misses by Philo kept it a 60-56 AHS advantage with 1:09 left to play. Gloversville elected to foul and sent Liverio and Stanavich to the line where each made one of two foul shots inching the Lady Rams closer to the win. Philo buried her last of five triples as the clock drifted below thirty seconds, but Liverio made a pair of crucial foul shots, and Stanavich added one more to produce the final result. Overall, AHS was 20 for 31 from the free throw line.
“We shoot a lot of free throws in practice,” Liverio said. “I just calmed down and did it.”
All four Lady Rams seniors proved key in the win. They took the floor as captains in the opening segments of the contest, and contributed throughout. When one went to the bench, another entered and kept up the steady play. Pritchard scored 11 of her team high 20 in the second quarter consistently punishing the middle of the Gloversville defense on her way to the rim with eight of her total coming from the bonus stripe. Liverio scored nine in the second quarter including a three on an assist by Flint that gave AHS a 26-20 lead. Gianna Derosa stepped in for Liverio and the Lady Rams never missed a beat as the senior connected for a three early in the second period growing the Lady Rams lead to 18-12, and later netted a pair of foul shots to keep AHS up 29-22, all in the second quarter allowing the Lady Rams to build a 39-29 lead at halftime. They experience of playing as team since they were in grade school proved valuable to the leadership of the Lady Rams.
“The seniors stepped up,” Amsterdam coach Eric Dumeler said. “Giuliana (Pritchard) had a monster game, Taylor spent a lot of time on shooting and doesn’t miss anything, and Lucia (Liverio) and Gianna (Derosa) did a good job running the offense.”
Amsterdam was tested early as the Lady Dragons worked out to a 6-0 lead with Benfatti, Hauser, and Philo each finding the basket. The Lady Rams responded going on an 11-0 run with Pritchard scoring the first AHS points of the season on a pair of free throws, and Stanavich anchoring the run with five of her 15 points. Amsterdam led 13-10 after one, and before the second quarter outburst.
An experienced Gloversville team that featured six seniors and three juniors threatened again in the third quarter, but turnovers and foul problems made it difficult for the Lady Dragons to gain the edge. The first two Gloversville possessions of the second half resulted in turnovers and took valuable time off the clock. Pritchard earned a hard fought basket giving Amsterdam a double digit lead at 41-31, and Stanavich took an inbound pass from Liverio to post a 43-31 AHS lead before Gloversville rallied behind Philo and Hauser, who teamed up against an Amsterdam zone defense scoring the last 11 GHS points of the the period cutting the lead to 48-45. Fouls kept several Gloversville players n the bench including Kendra Lavery, who scored five points in the fourth quarter including a game tying free throw at 56-56.
“We dug ourselves a big hole in the first half with foul trouble and turnovers,” Gloversville coach Molly Swan said. “I was impressed with our composure. We stayed tough and battled through, but it just didn’t go our way tonight.”
Hauser accented Philo’s game high with 15 points and seven rebounds. Lavery finished with seven points, Benfatti added five, and Gabby Langley chipped in three points for Gloversville.
Amsterdam got contributions from everyone who stepped on the court, as well as from a near capacity crowd who showed their support for the home team. Liverio followed Pritchard in the scoring column with a varsity career high 16 points, and four rebounds. Stanavich was next with her 15 point, 10 rebound performance. Flint finished with eight points and three rebounds, Derosa added five points and a pair of boards, May netted a free throw in the third quarter and gathered in seven rebounds, Fedullo added a pair of boards, and Beekman and junior Kim Lopez gave the Lady Rams valuable minutes during a foul filled first half.
The cohesive effort showed that the team was not one that would suffer from the lack of experience or leadership after losing five seniors who helped build a Lady Rams basketball program that reached back-to-back sectional title games. Rather, the team appeared ready to create a new season’s worth of memories in an effort to get that elusive first title for an AHS girls sports team.
“We proved tonight that it’s not just about one of us, it’s about all of us,” Pritchard said. “We believed in each other that we could win, and we did.”
The Lady Rams will also get a boost from an early scheduling change. Amsterdam’s next home game is Monday against the Broadalbin-Perth Lady Patriots. Amsterdam had been scheduled to play at BPHS on Monday, but that game has now been moved to January 15, 2018. Foothills Council teams will experience a new schedule format this season as each of the league’s ten teams will play a two games (home and away) against each league opponent making for an 18 game Foothills Council season instead of 13games. Amsterdam’s first road game is Thursday at Johnstown.