It’s the simplest of shots, and then it’s not. It’s one that’s practiced in school gyms, on playgrounds, and in back yards across America. It’s one of the first basketball skills a parent teaches a child, that a coach teaches a student. It’s the foul shot or as it’s more commonly known on the score sheet as the “free throw”. It can decide the outcome of a game. The Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team made 30 of them Tuesday night, including 19 out of 24 in the second half. Braelin Aldi hit a game high 12 from the line, most of them coming in the fourth quarter as Amsterdam defeated a state ranked Glens Falls team 64-52 at Amsterdam High School to remain unbeaten in the Foothills Council.
“I’ve been shooting a lot of free throws in practice,” Aldi said. “I knew I had to pick up my game and push myself. I had to step up from the foul line.”
Aldi suddenly found herself in the spotlight in the fourth quarter as the Lady Rams had to hold off a surging Glens Falls team. Aldi’s teammate and starting point guard Kaitlyn Devine proved more than Glens Falls could handle. Devine’s quickness broke through the Glens Falls press defense on several occasions in the third quarter leading to scoring chances for Amsterdam. But, after scoring on a fast break to give AHS a 39-27 lead, Devine fouled out on the next trip down the floor. Aldi took over at the point. Glens Falls chose to pressure and trap the rookie point guard as she moved the ball up the floor often putting on the free throw line. Aldi made them pay for it.
“Braelin battles Kaitlyn Devine every day in practice and they push each other,” said AHS head coach Eric Duemler. “She was nervous at first, then she stepped up and knocked down the foul shots.”
Amsterdam led 43-34 after the third quarter when Glens Falls’ Sophie Tougas scored on the first possession of the final period cutting the lead to seven. The eighth grader was the top scorer of the night with 22 points. Aldi then connected on the first of ten straight free throw attempts to push the lead back to nine at 45-36. After a basket by Lady Indians Taylor Scarincio, the Lady Rams senior captain Caitlin Gannon contributed her two free throws, then was the beneficiary of a trap by Aldi and Maria Lamonto on Glens Falls guard Emma Bayle, then a steal by Nina Fedullo. Gannon outraced the defenders down court for the score, pushing the lead back to double digits. That basket gave Gannon ten points to go along with her ten rebounds for the game. Her first “double-double” of the season. The Lady Rams had a good night under the boards as well out-rebounding Glens Falls 46-24. Gannon’s teammates Nina Fedullo and Giuliana Pritchard each collected nine boards.
“They were strong, but we were stronger,” said Pritchard, who peppered the rim with seven points, three from the stripe. “We were fronting, especially down low and switching back and forth, and then being careful not to foul.”
Amsterdam’s advantage under the boards led to a 16-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. On the defensive side a pair of rebounds by Pritchard and Fedullo led to three point baskets at the other end by Gannon and Devine. Amsterdam was up 9-1 midway through the opening frame. On the offensive side, Fedullo and Pritchard picked up points in the lane. The Lady Rams came out strong to start the second quarter as Maria Lamonto connected from long range and Brady Santiago scored on a jump shot in front of another free throw by Fedullo giving AHS its largest lead at 22-7. Baskets by Tessa Filiberto and Autumn Duemler helped AHS keep the 15 point margin before Glens Falls’ Lucy Tougas and Emma Bayle cut it to 27-17 at the half.
“We were aggressive on the boards,” said Coach Duemler. “That made a difference especially in the first quarter. This was a good start for us. We came out and moved the ball well against the zone. When we lost a little energy I said to them we need to bring it. We need to play with emotion and play smart. It wasn’t pretty in the second half but we made our foul shots.”
Whenever Glens Falls cut into the lead the Lady Rams had an answer. Glens Falls sophomore guard Lucy Tougas (12 pts.) had scored on three straight trips down court cutting the lead to 34-23 in the third quarter, but after an AHS time out, Lady Rams sophomore Brady Santiago threw a full court “touchdown” pass to a sprinting Fedullo to break Glens Falls’ momentum. Later in the fourth quarter after a free throw by Emilie Moses cut the the lead to 54-45, Aldi continued her accurate shooting burying a pair of free throws and then taking the ball away from Moses on the next possession and dropping in two more after the foul. Aldi made sure that AHS held a better than 2 to 1 advantage in free throws. Amsterdam hit 30 compared to Glens Falls 14.
“We are a good free throw shooting team,” said Coach Duemler. “We’re getting better each game. I’ve told them that there will be games that you win at the free throw line. Tonight it helped us win.”
It was fitting that the final points of the game came on free throws. Grace Catena had the final three from the line for AHS. Fedullo finished the night with nine points, seven from the line. Lamonto totaled eight points, one from the foul stripe. Devine added seven points, and Duemler was next with four, her last two from the free throw mark. Catena finished with three points, and Santiago and Fileberto each had two points to round out the scoring for the Lady Rams. Aldi’s 12 points and four rebounds were a career high.
“We came out fast,” Aldi said. “Then we just stuck together like we always do.”
Amsterdam (6-0 Foothills, 8-2 North America), has now won eight in a row since returning from a season opening tournament in Canada. The Lady Rams travel to Bishop Maginn on Saturday to take on a former Big 10 foe. Tip time is scheduled for 5pm. Amsterdam’s next home game is Tuesday, January 20, against Johnstown. The Lady Rams won the first contest with the Lady Bills at Johnstown 50-37.
“We keep finding different ways to win,” Coach Duemler said. “Tonight we knocked down free throws. That’s what good teams do. They keep finding ways to win.”