Lady Rams tested by Johnstown, win 11th straight

They didn’t have their best game. Only four players scored, all starters, and two of them fouled out in the fourth quarter. Their offense stalled, sputtered, and at times played like an old phonograph record someone had dusted off, with a few skips in it. Trailing in the final minute, it was gut check time for the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team. But, as they’ve done time and again this season, somehow they found a way to win. Amsterdam defeated a determined Johnstown Lady Bills team 50-47 Tuesday night at Amsterdam High School.

“They definitely tested us,” said AHS forward Giuliana Pritchard, who’s basket with less than a minute to play gave Amsterdam the lead for good. “It was hard especially losing two starters to fouls.”

After fighting back from 37-29 deficit to start the fourth quarter, Amsterdam was looking at an end to their 10 game win streak when Johnstown junior forward Kaila Fisher made her one free throw giving the Lady Bills the lead at 47-46 with a minute to play. On the next trip down the floor Pritchard took a pass from senior guard Caitlin Gannon close to the rim, spun around and put her shot through giving the Lady Rams the lead. The play was reminiscent of one from Amsterdam’s win over Schalmont in the Holiday Showcase at AHS in December when Pritchard got position inside and took a bounce pass from Gannon leading to the basket putting Amsterdam on top.

“That was a great pass from Caitlin Gannon,” said Pritchard on the play that put AHS in front. “She gave it to me at the right time, and Nina Fedullo set a screen. Everybody played their roles and it worked out.”

Pritchard’s score wasn’t an end to the drama. The Lady Bills headed down court looking to take the lead against an aggressive and confident AHS defense. Tips and deflections played a role in the turnover that followed and the ball went back to the Lady Rams. After the ensuing time out, Amsterdam forward Nina Fedullo sprinted down court closely guarded by Fisher, who intercepted the long inbound pass. The Lady Bills set up their offense but, a traveling call gave the ball back to Amsterdam. Fedullo was fouled on the inbound pass and then made both free throws for the 50-47 lead. Johnstown had a chance to tie with 2.7 seconds left and got the ball to their leading scorer Megan Anagnostopulos. The senior guard crossed the mid court line and got a shot off that bounced off the rim. Amsterdam survived the challenge to remain unbeaten in the Foothills Council and is now on a win streak of 11 in a row.

“We’re happy to be on the winning side,” Amsterdam head coach Eric Duemler said. “Our backs were to the wall. It was gut check time. We found a way to win again and I’m proud of the girls for coming back.”

The score was tied at 23-23 at halftime, but unlike previous Amsterdam contests it was Johnstown that came out and seized momentum outscoring AHS 14-6 in the third quarter. Anagnostopulos scored 11 of those 14 Lady Bills points and gave Johnstown a ten point cushion after drilling a three pointer and converting a pair of free throws during a 10-0 run to open the period. The Lady Rams made plenty of shots but didn’t score until Fedullo made a pair of free throws with 1:42 left to play in the third. Fedullo and Pritchard were responsible for all of Amsterdam’s points in the third quarter, and the two teamed up for 33 of the Lady Rams point total, and 13 rebounds. Fedullo topped the charts for AHS with 20 points most of which came during Amsterdam’s charge in the fourth quarter.

“We shot a poor percentage in the third quarter and weren’t patient enough in our offense,” said Coach Duemler. “In the fourth quarter I told them we had to run our offense, set screens and be patient. This is a learning experience and can only help us improve.”

Amsterdam’s offense was more effective in the fourth quarter as they opened the final period scoring the first eight points to tie the game at 37-37. That old record had found its groove and sounded like a classic comeback. Brady Santiago’s long distance jump shot with five minutes left to play capped a rally that saw both Fedullo and Pritchard score inside. Claire Guzielek’s free throw put Johnstown ahead by one during a late stretch when the lead changed hands six times before Pritchard’s last minute shot. Santiago’s final basket put the Lady Rams back in front at 39-38, but she and Kaitlyn Devine (7 pts.) fouled out in the next minute leaving it up to Autumn Duemler and Maria Lamonto to play key roles in the win.

Lexus Williams (11pts.) netted a pair of free throws, and Guzielek’s jump shot put Johnstown up 42-39, but a pair of crucial rebounds by Duemler, and Lamonto’s consistency getting through Johnstown’s half court press put the ball in Fedullo’s hands. The sophomore forward scored her last five points from the foul stripe, and came up with a big steal of an inbound pass for two more.

“Everybody has key roles,” said AHS senior captain Gannon. “We need to make sure all those roles fit together.”

Amsterdam’s starting five – Gannon, Fedullo, Pritchard , Santiago, and Devine – all played a part in the Lady Rams taking a 16-11 in the first quarter. A hook shot pass down the lane from Gannon to Fedullo, and Santiago’s first triple highlighted the period. Santiago finished with 10 points and four rebounds. Gannon contributed five rebounds, five assists and four steals Even though the AHS bench did not score, Duemler, Lamonto, and Tessa Filiberto teamed up for five rebounds, and Rayven Roach came up with a pair of steals that Amsterdam turned into points.

“Our bench stepped up and we worked together as a team,” Pritchard said.

Joohnstown drew even with AHS in the second quarter on the strength of three point baskets from Anagnostopulos and Williams. The Lady Bills closed out the half on a 5-0 run getting the last four on free throws from Chelsea Cirillo and Anagnostopulos, who finished with a game high 23 points and was 12 for 12 from the foul line. The Lady Rams overcame a poor shooting performance for the first three quarters to hold off a valiant effort by a Lady Bills team.

“Our shots didn’t fall in the beginning,” said Gannon. “Starting the third quarter we had to have the game mentality to pick ourselves up and win.”

The victory gives the Lady Rams eight in the Foothills Council and assures them of a winning record in their first season in the league. Amsterdam will face another capable foe in Queensbury when the Lady Spartans visit Amsterdam on Friday. Tip time is scheduled for 7pm. The Lady Rams rematch with Scotia-Glenville is the following Friday at AHS.

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.