Lady Rams stage 2nd half comeback win against Schalmont

AHS tennis coach Maura Dargush once described Caitlin Gannon as a player who “doesn’t get emotional when mistakes happen, she just moves on to the next point.” Trailing by as many as nineteen points in the second half Sunday night, the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team needed that “calm under pressure” character of their senior captain more than ever.  Gannon came through hitting a pair of crucial three-point shots and two assists, sparking a fourth quarter rally and leading the Lady Rams to a remarkable 62-57 comeback win over the Schalmont Lady Sabres in the finale of the Amsterdam Holiday College Showcase at Amsterdam High School.

Amsterdam was down 50-31 midway through the third quarter with Gannon at the heart of a defensive switch from zone to “man to man”. Gannon was given the task of defending Schalmont’s leading scorer Hailee Metzold, who the night before had reached a milestone in her career passing the 1,000 point scoring mark. Metzold had already scored 10 points in the first half and began picking apart the AHS defense driving to the basket, scoring, and drawing fouls. A pair of free throws by Metzold gave Schalmont the 19 point lead, but Gannon’s well executed fundamental defense paid off. The Lady Rams senior guard kept her hands up and put herself between Metzold and the basket denying Schalmont’s top scorer from getting off any good shots and forcing turnovers. AHS ended the third frame on a 10-1 run getting key rebounds and points from starters Gannon, Nina Fedullo, Giuliana Pritchard, and Kaitlyn Devine. And, while Gannon did pick up a pair of fouls her counterpart Metzold fouled out late in the third period. The momentum swung in Amsterdam’s

“Caitlin Gannon did a great job of defending against Hailee Metzold and forcing turnovers,” Amsterdam head coach Eric Duemleer said. “Coach Vas (Assistant Coach Vasilow) was begging me to switch to man to man. After the start of the second half we played more man to man and you could feel the momentum changing. When Hailee Metzold fouled out the momentum changed.”

The Lady Rams opened the fourth quarter on a 12-0 run. Gannon’s first three pointer cut the lead to 52-47, and moments later after a steal and a hoop by Brady Santiago, Devine found Gannon open in front of the AHS bench and the senior captain wasted no time in hitting nothing but net. Suddenly it was a slim two point margin at 52-50. Amsterdam’s defensive pressure then put Schalmont on the ropes. A pair of turnovers led to free throws by Devine at the 3:25 mark to tie the game, and Santiago with 2:56 left to play for a 54-52 lead. Schalmont meanwhile struggled from the foul line missing six of seven in the closing minutes of the game. Gannon assisted on the next two Amsterdam baskets finding Pritchard with a quick pass underneath the basket and a three-point lead, and then Santiago for an open three pointer and a 59-53 advantage. Amsterdam closed the game outscoring Schalmont 21-6 in the fourth quarter.

“I look at the entire court to see my options,” Gannon had said after Saturday’s win over Syracuse Corcoran. “I find my teammates who are open. If I have no options and I have an open shot, I take it.”

Santiago was open on the left wing for the three-point basket that gave the Lady Rams a six point cushion, but the sophomore forward admitted the shot wasn’t advised.

“He (coach Duemler) told me not to shoot but I did and it went in,” Santiago said.” I was happy it went in.”

Santiago had spent part of the second half on the bench after picking up her fourth foul, but came on to play solid defense and give Amsterdam the lead.

“Brady’s a good kid and she drives me crazy,” said Coach Duemler. “I told her not to take the shot but she stepped back, took it and it went in. She’s a good player.”

Amsterdam’s defense wasn’t up to speed in the first half as the Lady Sabers rotated the ball inside and outside getting three point basket from Sydnee Metzold (11 points), Megan Hyde (9 pts.) and Tralyn Randle (7 pts.). Sydnee Metzold’s first triple gave Schalmont the lead to open the game. Her second gave the Lady Sabres an 8-7 lead in the first quarter, one that they would hold until Santiago’s free throws in the final minutes. Hailee Metzold’s only three point basket came during a two minute stretch early in the third quarter when she outscored AHS 11-1 and gave the Lady Sabres their largest lead. Hailee Metzold’s 23 points were a game high.

“We didn’t play defense in the first half,” Coach Duemler said. “And we turned the ball over against their pressure defense. In the second half we did a better job of finding the open man. They all stuck together and a lot of energy came from the bench. That’s what good teams do. It’s good to be able to come back and rally.”

Kaitlyn Devine led Amsterdam with 15 points including three triples. Nina Fedullo was next with 13 points and eight rebounds, most of which came in the second half. Santiago finished with 11 points, seven coming in the second half and her three pointer was her last before leaving the game with five fouls.

“Having four fouls and sitting on the bench is hard,” said Santiago. “You just have to keep your head up.”

Amsterdam got help from its bench with Maria Lamonto and Grace Catena scoring two points each and Jailene Irazarry getting one point on a free throw. Autumn Duemler collected three rebounds for Amsterdam. The Lady Rams took control under the boards in the second half and finished with 30 rebounds as a team. Pritchard’s nine rebounds were a team high. The freshman forward also scored 10 points. Gannon ended the game with eight points and five rebounds. Her composure as team captain in the face of adversity were even more valuable.

“She’s a senior captain and I expect big things from her, the coaching staff expects a lot from her,” Coach Duemler said. “There were college coaches here to see her play this weekend.”

Amsterdam (3-0 Foothills, 5-2 overall) won its fifth in a row. The Lady Rams return to action in the Foothills Council with a game at Johnstown on Tuesday, January 6, 2015. The Lady Rams next home contest is the following Friday, January 9 against South Glens Falls. Game time is 6pm.

(Photos by Scott Mulford)

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.