“Practice makes perfect.” It’s a statement that probably every coach has used at least once in their career. A legendary college basketball coach once said that he had his players each shoot one hundred free throws in practice, and that his starting point guard could make every one. It was no surprise that the team went on to win an NCAA title. Friday night against Queensbury, the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team needed every bit of that practice and every one of their free throws to remain unbeaten in the Foothills Council. It wasn’t pretty, but they won. Amsterdam surged past the Lady Spartans 63-54 at Amsterdam High School for their twelfth straight win.
“We’ve been taking a lot of free throws in practice,” said AHS sophomore guard Maria Lamonto, who scored that last four points of the game from the line to preserve the win. “I was just feeling it. We all had to hit our foul shots.”
Lamonto came off the bench to play important minutes for Amsterdam (9-0 Foothills, 12-2 overall). Both she and starting forward Nina Fedullo combined to score 12 of the Lady Rams last 17 points from the free throw line. Fedullo scored a team high 16 points with all but two coming from the stripe.
“I was a little nervous,” said Fedullo. “I just had to get my rhythm.”
The two teams were locked in a tight contest with AHS leading 46-42 midway through the fourth quarter. Queensbury put the pressure on and began sending the Lady Rams to the foul line. Fedullo connected for the first pair of shots sending her on a string of eight in a row. Fedullo gave AHS it’s biggest lead at 52-42 after collecting a rebound and getting sent to the stripe. Kaitlyn Devine’s running jump shot in the lane after a steal put Amsterdam in front 54-42. Madeline Nelson answered for Queensbury with a three point shot ahead of Fedullo’s last pair of free throws putting the score at 56-45. Nelson then connected on pair of foul shots of her own keeping the Lady Spartans within striking distance. On the next trip down the floor Amsterdam senior captain Caitlin Gannon found the bottom of the net with her second key three point shot boosting the lead back to twelve at 59-47. Queensbury then scored the next seven points making Gannon’s long range goal all the more important. Lamonto finished the scoring converting the last four attempts from the line.
“Knocking down our foul shots and defense were the keys,” said Fedullo, who picked up another double-double adding a game high 18 rebounds to her totals.
Fedullo and her front court teammate Giuliana Pritchard played a big part in yet another Lady Rams second half charge to the lead. Amsterdam trailed Queensbury 26-24 at the break. The two teamed up for 24 points in the second half. Pritchard picked up her game in the third quarter scoring first on a “give and go” play assisted by Brady Santiago halting an attempt by the Lady Spartans to pull away in the early minutes of the third. Pritchard ‘s next four points were assisted by Fedullo as the freshman forward worked her way inside the Queensbury defense. Pritchard cut the Lady Spartans lead to 33-32, and after a defensive rebound by Fedullo, Santiago put AHS in front to stay on a put back. Fedullo then intercepted the inbound pass and gave AHS a 36-33 lead. Both Fedullo and Pritchard converted attempts from the stripe to keep the Lady Rams in front 40-34 after three quarters.
“Both are great players,” said Gannon on Pritchard and Fedullo. “They’re great together in our front court down low and help get everyone scoring.”
Pritchard is in her second year on the varsity squad. Her 14 points and eight rebounds complimented Fedullo’s totals making them a formidable team and with a strong supporting cast; difficult to stop.
“We played better in the second half,” Amsterdam head coach Eric Duemler said. “Giuliana Pritchard stepped up and played tough. She gave us good points inside.”
Amsterdam got off to a slow start to open the game missing their first seven tries, some of them close to the rim. Queensbury wasn’t able to pull away thanks in part to the Lady Rams defense forcing three turnovers in the opening minutes. The Lady Spartans led only 7-2 on the strength of baskets by Eileen Hurley (5 points, 5 rebounds), and Nelson, who finished with a game high 24 points. Duemler turned to his bench for a spark and got one from Lamonto, who scored the next five points getting assists from Fedullo and Devine.
Lamonto also plays for the Amsterdam varsity volleyball team. Coach Christine Sherlock said of Lamonto, one of three starting sophomores, that “she has enthusiasm and energy and she cares about the sport.” Lamonto showed that on the basketball court as well and is often the first off the bench for the Lady Rams. Friday night she helped keep her team in front and later seal the win. Amsterdam led 10-9 after the first, but Queensbury turned up the heat.
Lamonto’s next shot boosted AHS to a 12-9 lead, but Queensbury begin to dictate the pace of the game with guards Nelson and Samantha Wallace (14 pts.) moving quickly up the floor. Wallace scored nine of her total in the second quarter. Devine responded weaving into the Lady Spartans defense scoring five of her 10 points. Queensbury led 26-21 after a lay up by Nelson, but a last second three point goal by Gannon held it at one possession, 26-24.
“We played at a helter skelter pace,” Coach Duemler said. “They baited us into it. That was probably our worst first half of the year.”
Queensbury scored the first four points of the third on baskets by Nelson and Reilly before Pritchard and Santiago teamed up to rally. Reilly scored the last of her points to put Queensbury up 32-26, but they could not break away from AHS. Devine quickly answered igniting a more controlled fast break for a score beginning the Lady Rams surge to the lead.
“They (Queensbury) were pushing the ball up the floor,” said Gannon. “We just had to get set in our defense. They did a good job pushing the ball up court. We had to get our heads in the game and play hard on defense.”
Gannon finished with six points, three rebounds and four steals. Santiago collected four points and six rebounds for the Lady Rams, Autumn Duemler put home two points and grabbed four rebounds, and Tessa Filiberto and Rayven Roach each pulled down a pair of rebounds. Lamonto ended her night with 11 points, three rebounds and three steals.
“We just have to find a way to win,” said Lamonto. “Ugly or pretty.”
Amsterdam (9-0) remains a game ahead of second place Scotia-Glenville in the South Division of the Foothills Council. The Lady Rams have a week to prepare for the Lady Tartans. The two teams will play for the division crown on Friday at AHS. Tip time is scheduled for 7pm.
“I was worried about this game because sometimes it can catch you looking ahead,” said Coach Duemler. “We’ll go four hard days in practice and be prepared to play our best on Friday.”
Hopefully there will be a good crowd in attendance as well. The last time I can remember the Lady Rams played a game of this magnitude was 1994 when an undefeated Amsterdam team faced an undefeated St. Johnsville team in a game billed as the “county championship.”
(Photos by Scott Mulford)