Lady Rams basketball come up short against Saratoga Springs

It’s often said in competitive sports that all the stats don’t matter, the thing that does is the final score. Wednesday night the effort was the victory as the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team led the Saratoga Lady Blue Streaks in almost every category on the stat sheet, but in the end trailed by five on the scoreboard bringing to a close their eight game win streak, 56-51 at Saratoga Springs High School.

“We came in and battled right to the end,” Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler said. “I’m very proud of the effort from the girls tonight. The game could have gone either way. Saratoga is an upper tier Suburban Council team, right up there with Shenendehowa and Shaker.”

The outcome was different from the first meeting between the two teams that was won by the Lady Blue Streaks 60-48 back on December 12, 2015 at Amsterdam High School. Saratoga’s tandem of guards that included Devin Davidson, Kerry Flaherty, Catherine Cairns, and Kara Varnvalis combined to make 10 three point baskets against a zone defense, with Davidson responsible for five of them. Wednesday night, Amsterdam’s man to man defense held the Lady Blue Streaks to only one make from beyond the arc, although an important one, but as both teams continued to battle their way to the basket, the fouls began to weigh heavily toward the Lady Rams sending the Lady Blue Streaks to the line 34 times compared to 18 for the Lady Rams. It was the one statistic that did not go the Lady Rams way, especially in the fourth quarter on an otherwise impressive showing by the Lady Rams.

“We played man defense to take way the threes,” Coach Duemler said. “We knew they had guards #5 (Cairns), and #10 (Flaherty), who could shoot the three. It was great man defense by our girls, but we had a lot of foul trouble and rotated a lot of people in tonight.”

Amsterdam’s starting five of Nina Fedullo, Giuliana Pritchard, Kaitlyn Devine, Autumn Duemler, and Brady Santiago took the floor to start the fourth quarter with all but Devine playing with four fouls, and trailing 37-34. Saratoga continued an 11-0 run that began at the end of the third period by scoring the first seven points of the fourth quarter getting baskets from Madeline Chuidy and Catherine Cairns including the only three by Cairns as the Lady Blue Streaks tried to pull away gaining the only double digit lead of the game 44-34. Devine answered Cairn’s triple with one of her own keeping the game within reach. A basket by Chuidy were then the only points for Saratoga over a two minute stretch that saw free throws by Fedullo and a lay up by Devine cut into the lead. Following a defensive rebound by Duemler, Fedullo took a pass from Lucia Liverio to the net making it a one possession game 46-43 with four minutes left on the clock. It appeared the momentum began to swing in the Lady Rams favor, but as quick as the chance came, it slipped away. Amsterdam had two opportunities to tie the game after getting defensive rebounds from Fedullo and Liverio but didn’t make good passing decisions on the next two trips into the Saratoga zone, and the Lady Blue Streaks were quick to take advantage with a pair of steals leading to points by Cairns and Briann Barringer creating a 50-43 lead. The Lady Rams were undaunted, yet the next sequence of events had the biggest impact on the game.

A pair of free throws by Fedullo sliced the lead to five once again, but on the ensuing drive by the Lady Blue Streaks, Autumn Duemler picked up her fifth foul sending Chuidy to the line where she made one of two shots. Fedullo took control of the ball on the Lady Rams next trip down the floor. As she made her way to the basket, three Saratoga players, all in motion, reached for the ball with one stepping in front. Fedullo was called for a charging (offensive) foul, and a look of disbelief set upon the faces of the Lady Rams and their fans. The foul sent the Amsterdam’s leading scorer to the bench with a game high 22 points, but even without Fedullo, the Lady Rams still had a number of options left to turn to in an effort to get the score in their favor. One of those options was senior Kaitlyn Devine, who scored five of her nine points in the fourth quarter. But Devine was called for a hand check foul on Flaherty after the Saratoga freshman had intercepted a pass and headed down court. Flaherty would spend a little more time than usual at the line when Devine also picked up a technical foul debating the call, and Flaherty’s converting three out of four from the line put Saratoga up 54-45 with 2:12 left to play. The Lady Rams still weren’t out of options, and with Maria Lomanto roaming free around the three point arc, Saratoga had made a mistake and Lomanto made them pay for it.

Three point shots from Lomanto rained in twice with incredible accuracy, her second one giving Lomanto 100 points for the season, and suddenly it was a one possession game again 54-51 with 44 seconds left to play. Amsterdam’s defense set up looking for the chance to trap and steal, but they were forced to foul giving Cairns the chance to sink the last of 19 free throws for Saratoga and secure the win. The Lady Rams left knowing they had battled tough against one of the big Class AA schools, and in the end it was time that denied them of victory. Amsterdam held a 39-35 edge in rebounding, turned the ball over only 16 times to Saratoga’s 18, and even had a better percentage of made shots including hitting 13 of 18 from the foul line.

“We just had to fight to the end,” said Lomanto, who became the fourth member of the Lady Rams to reach 100 points this season. “Coach Duemler said this is a game where we have to put our hard hats on, and that’s just what had to happen. We played with class and when a window is open you have to take it.”

Amsterdam led 11-10 after the first quarter and 22-20 at the end of the first half with Pritchard scoring six of he eight points before the break. The sophomore forward turned an offensive rebound into a score in the middle of a 6-0 run that included baskets by Fedullo and Devine giving Amsterdam it’s largest lead of the game 21-15 near the end of the second quarter. Pritchard got to the basket again on a pass by Fedullo and converted a pair of free throws putting Amsterdam up 27-26 early in the third quarter, a lead that grew to 30-26 moments later when she assisted on Fedullo’s three point shot, the first of the night for either team. Pritchard’s fourth foul, a reach on Cairns drive to the basket put her on the bench midway through the third causing the Lady Rams to again look for other options to score.

“They extended out on their zone defense,” Coach Dueler said. “We saw something with Giuliana in the middle, but we didn’t take advantage as much as we could have.”

Saratoga scored six of their last eight points of the third quarter from the free throw line to produce the 37-34 score at the end of three periods. Fedullo answered the bell for the Lady Rams, with their last lead coming at 34-32 after she reached for a ball headed out of bounds under the rim and brought it back in for two. Taylor Patnode’s only points of the game, a pair from the stripe gave Saratoga the lead 35-34 with a minute left in the third frame, and the Lady Blue Streaks didn’t give it back.

Fedullo added 10 rebounds to her 22 points for her seventh “double-double” of the season. Pritchard had six rebounds to go with her eight points, Devine totaled nine with three boards, and Lomanto finished with six points in the Lady Rams cause. Rayven Roach scored three points and brought down nine rebounds, Brady Santiago scored two points, and Autumn Duemler added one for Amsterdam. Lucia Liverio finished with three rebounds and two assists, Grace Catena, Jailene Irizarry, and Victoria Barone-Lopez each added a rebound for the Lady Rams.

Saratoga had three players in double digits: Madeline Chuidy (18 points), Kerry Flaherty (15), and Catherine Cairns (12). Briann Barrianger scored six points, Taylor Patnode and Charlotte Reilly each had two and Nakaela Elliott had one for the Lady Blue Streaks.

The loss broke an eight game win streak for Amsterdam (12-4 overall, 11-1 Foothills Council) that began back on December 29, 2015 when the Lady Rams defeated Rome Free Academy (Section 3 Class AA) 57-35 at their Amsterdam Holiday College Showcase event. The team is back in action this weekend when they travel to New York City for the Mecca High School Challenge in Bronx, NY that features some of the best girls high school basketball teams in the nation and is attended by college coaches at every level of NCAA basketball. The Lady Rams will take on a pair of Class AA equivalent large schools beginning with a 2pm contest Saturday against John F. Kennedy High School of the Bronx, followed by an 11am Sunday contest against the Patrick School of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Games are held at the Gauchos Gym, Bronx, NY.

“We’ll practice tomorrow and be ready for the challenge,” Coach Duemler said. “We’re up against two of the better basketball programs in New York and New Jersey. It gives our kids a chance to show what they can do.”

The Lady Rams are not alone representing Section 2 at the Mecca. Amsterdam is sharing a bus with the Shenedehowa Lady Plainsmen, leaders of the Suburban Council, who will also play two games over the weekend. Shenedehowa will play Capital Prep of Connecticut at 6:30pm on Saturday, and St. Anthony of Long Island at 3:30pm on Sunday.

Amsterdam returns home to complete its Foothills Council regular season with a 7pm varsity tip Monday against division rival Broadalbin-Perth. It will be Senior Night for AHS players Kaitlyn Devine, Autumn Duemler, Rayven Roach, Jailene Irizarry, Gabriella Catena, and Braelin Aldi.

A victory would clinch their second straight season undefeated against Foothills Council south division opponents.

The Lady Rams have already clinched the division crown for the second straight season and await the winner of the Glens Falls versus Hudson Falls game also on Monday, in the league championship game at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Thursday, February 4.

Amsterdam JV fall 49-32

The junior varsity Lady Rams managed to rally in the second half of their game at Saratoga on Wednesday but came up short 49-32. Gianna Derosa led Amsterdam with 12 points. Taylor Flint scored eight, Megan Lamont made a pair of threes for her six points, Natalie Fernandez chipped in with four, and Karly Power had three in the AHS effort. Kayla LaHart, Amanda McGinn, and Isley Sterling each had nine points of Saraoga Springs.

(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.