It’s a popular saying in sports that “good teams find ways to win games.” Two good girls high school basketball teams met Thursday night, and when all was said and done, the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity team overcame a determined effort from a talented, young Gloversville team. They outscored the Lady Dragons 19-10 in a decisive fourth quarter to earn the win 67-55 at Gloversville High School in the 2015-2016 Foothills Council season opener for both teams.
Fresh off their victory in the first annual Harvest Hoopfest Tournament, Gloversville showed they were not intimidated by the defending Foothills Council South division champs. The starting four Gloversville sophomores, which included Kerri Hauser, Jasmine Gonzalez, Gabrielle Langley and Alex Benfatti, and freshman Harmony Philo, came out firing and made their shots count early on. Langley, Benfatti and Philo all made three point baskets, which helped to stay a step ahead of Amsterdam 27-26 at the half. The Lady Rams needed to make an adjustment on defense.
“They were knocking down shots,” Amsterdam head coach Eric Duemler said. “They made a lot of shots and we talked about it at halftime and mixed in the triangle and two defense.”
The versatility of the Lady Rams defense paid off. While Gloversville benefited from several open looks at the basket and poured in five three-point baskets in the first half including three straight from Philo in the second quarter, they only managed two triples in the second half. The defensive pressure led to fewer Gloversville shots, more turnovers, and more Amsterdam rebounds.
“We put pressure on their best shooters,” said Amsterdam sophomore forward Giuliana Pritchard. “We definitely put a lock on them defensively in the second half and made sure they didn’t get rebounds.”
“We were keeping them from distributing the ball,” added Amsterdam junior forward Nina Fedullo.
Defense led to offense and after Philo’s last three pointer put Gloversville up 40-35 in the third quarter, everybody in the Amsterdam offense got involved. A drive to the basket by Fedullo, who led all scorers with 31 points, cut the lead to 40-37. Moments later, junior guard Maria Lomanto connected for her team leading fifth three pointer to cut it to one at 41-40. A basket by Hauser put Gloversville up 43-40, but it was their last lead of the game. After a free throw by Duemler cut it to one again, on their next possession Pritchard made a beautiful pass inside to Fedullo who glided to the basket, then converted the free throw to put AHS up 45-43. Hauser showed her skills on the opposite end with a spin move around two AHS defenders to tie the game, but the momentum was shifting the Lady Rams’ way.
The Lady Rams were starting a rookie of their own, sophomore Lucia Liverio, who had the responsibility of running the offense from the point guard position. Liverio assisted on several key baskets for Amsterdam, but her only points of the game came at a turning point late in the third quarter. With time running down on the shot clock, the Lady Rams moved the ball around the perimeter looking for an open shot. Seeing no other option, Liverio saw the clock counting down, set up and took a three pointer that got nothing but net putting Amsterdam in front to stay 48-45 as time ran out in the third.
“Lucia hit a big three for us,” Coach Duemler said. “She had at least four assists and no turnovers.”
Liverio’s handling of the pressure and good decisions with the ball was critical to the Lady Rams success and an important factor in not letting the game get away from them.
“Our starting point guard, Lucia is only a sophomore,” said Pritchard, who is also a sophomore and in her third year on the AHS varsity. “She handled the pressure well and did an amazing job.”
Amsterdam’s offense took control in the fourth quarter with Fedullo leading the way scoring 13 of Amsterdam’s 19 points in the quarter. Fedullo grabbed a rebound on the defensive end then outraced Gloversville down the floor and pulled up for a three giving Amsterdam it’s largest lead of the game 51-45. Fedullo scored the first seven points of the final period including the last two on an assist from Pritchard, who blocked a shot by Hauser and fired the ball down the court to a sprinting Fedullo and a double-digit lead for the Lady Rams 55-45. A basket by AHS forward Brady Santiago (5 points) and five more from Fedullo made it a 14-2 run by the Lady Rams to open the quarter, and Gloversville didn’t recover.
“Nina was on fire in the second half,” Coach Dumeler said. “She’s improved tremendously.”
The change in defense played to the Lady Rams advantage and helped Amsterdam get an edge in rebounding 40-15, and augmented Fedullo’s game, as rebounds turned into points.
“The change of defense set us back a bit,” Gloversville head coach Molly Swan said. “Then Nina (Fedullo) found her stride in the fourth quarter.”
Gloversville certainly had the momentum going their way in the first half. Benfatti scored ten of her 14 points in the first quarter helping the Lady Dragons stay even at 13-13 at the end of one period. Philo connected for nine of her team high 19 points in the second quarter helping Gloversville to the lead at the half, but Amsterdam had an answer from beyond the arc in Maria Lomanto, who answered every long distance basket with one of her own to keep AHS within striking distance in the first half.
“Maria kept us in the first half,” Coach Duemler said. “We tried to get the ball to her whenever she felt she could make it.”
Lomanto’s efforts were important particularly since Amsterdam didn’t shoot well from the free throw line making only eight of 23 for the game. Amsterdam made only three of 11 in the first half, but Lomanto stayed focused on every three-point shot attempt and made them count.
“Just stay focused as best you can,” said Lomanto who finished with 17 points. “You learn to keep your cool.”
Lomanto added three rebounds to her totals. Fedullo took down 13 rebounds, Pritchard added ten rebounds to go with her five points and four assists. Autumn Duemler put in six points and had six rebounds for AHS. Grace Catena (4 rebounds), and Rayven Roach (5 rebounds) played strong in the Amsterdam cause.
Gloversville got eight points and three rebounds from Hauser, six points and two rebounds from Jasmine Gonzalez, eight points and one rebound from Gabrielle Langley, and a pair of rebounds from senior Emily Ross in the effort from a young team with plenty of room to grow.
“We gave them a good battle,” Coach Swan said. “We were prepared for this. The girls work well together and played AAU ball this summer. We know we have a bright future.”
Both teams will return to action in the Foothills Council on Monday with Gloversville traveling to Broadalbin-Perth to take on the Lady Patriots. Amsterdam will host Johnstown in their home opener. Varsity game times are scheduled for 7pm.
(Photos by Scott Mulford)