Lady Rams pass Lansingburgh to advance to Class A semifinals

Giuliana Pritchard scored a game high 22 points and was one of three Lady Rams to score in double digits as the Amsterdam girls varsity basketball team used a pair of second half runs to overwhelm a tough Lansingburgh team 61-46 in the quarterfinals of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Class A tournament on Thursday night at Amsterdam High School.

Amsterdam clung to a 27-23 lead at halftime and used something new as well as something reliable in their defensive scheme to produce a 9-2 run to begin the third quarter, and later an 8-2 burst to start the fourth. Pritchard took a pass from Grace Catena on Amsterdam’s first possession of the third and drilled a three point shot to boost the AHS lead to seven. Moments later, Pritchard returned the favor by assisting on a drive to the rim by Catena. Then, following a basket by Lansingburgh’s Kemmani Gang, the Lady Rams put into effect a half-court trap that few teams had seen during the season.

“We were saving the half court trap for sectionals,” Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler said. “It helped us take them out of their rhythm.”

The defensive measure worked on the next Lady Knights trip down the floor as Lady Rams’ Nina Fedullo and Lucia Liverio pressured Lansingburgh’s top scorer Nylasia Sutton in to a turnover near mid court. Catena sprinted down the floor where Fedullo’s pass caught her in stride to the basket for two of the senior guards’ ten points. Catena and Fedullo then created havoc on the next Lansingburgh trip down the floor by trapping Cassandra Bessette near the corner baseline. Catena tipped the ball away and Fedullo continued the dribble down the court for two more and a 36-25 AHS lead. Catena, normally one of the first off the bench for AHS, was in the starting lineup for a reason, and her presence had an impact.

“We knew that if Lansingburgh played us man to man then Grace is a good option,” Coach Duemler said. “Grace is a better passer, can shoot from anywhere on the floor, and she has experience in the offense.”

Catena played a part in Amsterdam’s first nine points of the second half and was a good example of the “sharing the ball” concept that has become commonplace in the Lady Rams style of play. After a free throw by Britney Dolan and a three point make by Sutton cut into the AHS lead, Pritchard assisted on a lay up by Brady Santiago and then teamed up with Santiago to trap and create another steal that turned into a free throw and a 40-31 Lady Rams advantage.

“Everybody did a great job,” Pritchard said. “Nina (Fedullo) was everywhere, Grace (Catena), Elena (Fedullo) and Taylor (Flint) in the low post, Lucia (Liverio), Maria (Lomanto), and Brady (Santiago) with the assists. It was a team effort.”

Pritchard ended a string of five straight free throws by Sutton with a pair of her own to keep AHS in front 42-36 to end the third, but the Lady Rams continued their surge into the fourth with Catena taking a pass from Santiago and netting a jump shot from the corner producing an eight point margin. Patience Riley scored for Lansingburgh, but the Lady Rams got the next six with Catena assisting on two of Nina Fedullo’s 19 points for the game, and put Fedullo over the 400 point mark for the season. Pritchard scored the next four giving Amsterdam its largest lead at 50-38, the later two coming on an assist by Nina Fedullo, one of 14 for the game by the Lady Rams. Gang and Sutton helped the Lady Knights cut the lead back to eight with just over four minutes to play, but Pritchard started another burst by AHS with a put back for a 52-42 lead. Amsterdam had a clear rebounding advantage managing 18 boards on the offensive end, and 26 on the defensive side. Nina Fedullo added 18 rebounds to her 19 points and fell only two steals shy of a “triple double.” Fedullo has often reiterated during the season that “defense wins championships”, and the Lady Rams certainly showed why.

“We were repping the three-two zone defense in practice,” Nina Fedullo said. “We knew we had to pressure them, and we had size on them.”

That defense held Lansingburgh’s top socring threat, Sutton, who had put up 27 against South Glens Falls a week earlier, to only 16 points for the game, and only one field goal in the second half. Sutton had connected for eight three point shots against the Lady Bulldogs in the first round of the playoffs, but against AHS she had only two triples, one in each half.

“She (Sutton) made a deep one in the first half,” Coach Dumler said. “We switched out hard on her and we weren’t giving her too many good looks.”

Grace Catena swished the first two of her four free throws in the fourth quarter to push the AHS lead to 56-42 as time began to fade. Lucia Liverio helped Elena Fedullo get on the Lady Rams scoring chart with a pass into the low post. Christina Wright and Riley traded points with Nina Fedullo and Catena to bring about the final score, sending the Lady Rams to the Section 2 Class A semi-finals.

“We played super hard,” Coach Duemler said. “We played good defense, dominated the boards and still scored in the 60’s despite missing some shots early.”

Amsterdam’s offense was slow in getting started after the opening tip, but had plenty of effort. Lansingburgh broke out to a 7-2 lead behind the play of Dolan, Bessette, and Wright, yet the Lady Rams were getting good looks at the basket, and rebounds, but shots weren’t going through. Nina Fedullo fought her way through the Lady Knights defense scoring the Lady Rams first six points of the game, four from the foul line, and then dished out an assist to Maria Lomanto for AHS’ first lead at 8-7. Fedullo pushed it to a three point lead after a steal, and after Sutton’s three tied things up, Liverio netted a free throw then found Pritchard under the rim on an inbound pass to give AHS a 13-10 lead after one.

Pritchard connected for the first of her two triples in the early moments of the second quarter to put AHS up 16-11 before a lay up by Gang and a three by Bessette tied it up at 16. Lomanto and Nina Fedullo inched the Lady Rams out in front by four as the teams continued to battle for points. Madison Teta’s three closed the gap for Lansingburgh at 20-19, but Pritchard responded to keep AHS in front. Sutton then scored the next four points giving Lansingburgh its last lead of the game at 23-22, but it was short lived as Nina Fedullo and Pritchard teamed up to score the last five points of the half for a 27-23 margin. Amsterdam had the lead despite missing shots from behind the arc and up close. The Lady Rams also had a height advantage, but Lansingburgh made them work for it.

“We definitely worked hard,” Nina Fedullo said. “We had to find a way to make baskets. We had a lot of heart.”

“The shots were not falling but we didn’t give up,” added Pritchard. “That says a lot about us. Our defense was great and we played as a team.”

Nina Fedullo’s near triple-double was complimented by the play of Pritchard and Catena, who teamed up for 30 points and 15 rebounds. The three Lady Rams starters outscored Lansingburgh 51-46.

“Grace and Giuliana worked hard down low,” Fedullo said. “We shared the ball really well tonight.”

Brady Santiago scored four points and came away with five rebounds for Amsterdam (17-4), Maria Lomanto scored three points, Elena Fedullo had two points, and Lucia Liverio added a free throw in the winning effort. Taylor Flint and Gianna Derosa contributed with a rebound each for the Lady Rams.

Nylasia Sutton’s 16 point effort led Lansingburgh (9-11). Cassandra Bessette added ten points and four rebounds for he Lady Knights. Kemanni Gang was next with six points followed by Patience Riley with five. Madison Testa added three points, and Kalissa Genther, Britney Dolan, and Christina Wright all contributed two points for Lansingburgh.

Amsterdam advances to the Class A semi-finals on Tuesday night, 6pm, at Colonie High School where they will face a Queensbury team they had defeated 63-34 back on December 19, 2016.

Queensbury 59 Mohonasen 56

Upsets happen in tournament play, and the Class A sixth seed Lady Spartans pulled off one on Thursday night at Amsterdam High School in the first quarterfinal by taking out the third seed Mohonasen Lady Warriors 59-56. Meghan O’ Connor’s three point shot with 2.2 seconds left was the deciding measure. Hope Sullivan had a team high 20 points and Hailey Ballard scored eight points in the fourth quarter to lead Queensbury.

“This was a big win for our program,” Queensbury coach Megan Bethel said. “The girls were ready to go after four solid days of practice. I’m proud of them.”

The Lady Spartans came out fired up to start the game and maintained that level of intensity to the end against their Suburban Council opponent, and they were not intimidated by Mohonasen’s primary scoring threat in Davidson College bound senior Saeeda Abdul-Aziz, who had a game high 32 points.

Abdul- Aziz tied the game at 56-56 with a pair of free throws before O’Connor’s game winner. The Lady Warriors had a chance to tie in the closing seconds but failed to get a shot off in time. The Lady Spartans did not make it easy for Abdul-Aziz constantly double or triple teaming her and denying many good looks at the basket. Sullivan, O’Connor, Ballard, Emma Hayes, Caitlin Bolen, and Deja Perkins came away with key rebounds during the second half to preserve the win.

“We made it tough for her,” Coach Bethel said. “The girl played phenomenal defense on her.”

In addition to a collapsing defense that limited Abdul- Aziz’s points, only three other Lady Warriors scored. Meanwhile, five Lady Spartans complimented Sullivan’s efforts. O’Connor finished with 12 points, Hayes added nine, Caitlin Bolen had five, Abby Doin contributed four points, and Perkins added a free throw for Queensbury.

“Queensbury played well,” AHS coach Eric Duemler said. “Their man to man defense was effective against Mohonasen. It’s going to be a battle on Tuesday.”

“They looked better than we first played them,” added Nina Fedullo. “We have to keep working hard to get another win.”

The winner or the Amsterdam/Queensbury semi-final will meet the winner of the Averill Park/ Gloversville semi-final that will tip off at 7:30pm at Colonie High School. Winners will meet in the NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A final at Hudson Valley Communioty College on March 3, at 7:45pm.

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.