Lady Rams basketball program celebrates outstanding season

“A great teammate,” “very dedicated basketball player,” “hard working, and a leader by example,” “a role model,” and “someone who loves basketball,” were the phrases that Amsterdam varsity girls basketball coach Eric Duemler used to describe each of the five seniors of the class of 2017 who completed their high school basketball careers this season, at the Amsterdam Lady Rams Basketball program’s end of the year banquet held Tuesday night at Amsterdam High School.

The banquet was hosted by the Amsterdam Lady Rams Basketball Booster Club and concluded another outstanding season for the Lady Rams basketball program in which the varsity team reached its second consecutive New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Class A final. Coaches of the program’s four teams thanked the parents and boosters for their contributions, and then introduced players of each team, noting their accomplishments.

Seventh grade coach Alison Miller noted a very successful team that lost only one game during the 2016- 2017 season. Members of the Amsterdam seventh grade modified team included Raven Almanzar, Ani Bogran, Julia Fiet, Brianna Francisco, Sierra Goodson, Sydney Hoefs, Shelby Lamont, Viddalys Lopez, Yarelis Rodriguez, Aniah Sturdivant, Nicole Velez, and manager Kiara Reid.

Eighth grade coach Julie Pendt commended a team that continued to learn throughout the season and responded by defeating teams they had lost to earlier in the season. Pendt also noted the accomplishments of team member Gianna King, who won the annual Elks Lodge Hoop Shoot free throw shooting contest in Amsterdam, and advanced all the way to the interstate competition at West Point where she finished second overall. Members of the Amsterdam eighth grade modified team included Isabella Agresta, Charli Beekman, Natalie Flint, Andie Gannon, Jessalina Gracia-Rivera, Mianna Jackson, Gianna King, Luzmarie Torres- Fuentes, Karen Troche, and team manager Kiara Reid.

Amsterdam junior varsity coach Jessica Byerwalters’ team completed a 14-6 record during a tough Foothills Council schedule in which the team earned some victories against talented teams including Glens Falls, Scotia-Glenville, and Johnstown. Byerwalters noted the accomplishments of a 15 member strong JV team, and also recognized four players whom she had coached for the past two years including sophomore Megam Lamont, who was called up to the varsity team for sectionals. Freshman Madison Wojcik joined Lamont, as did one of two eighth graders on the junior varsity team, Antonia May, who appeared in three games at the varsity level scoring two points in a game against Schuylerville. Members of the Amsterdam junior varsity team included Jareymarie Aponte, Mady Carmona, Deliana Figueroa, Emma Gomez, Megan Lamont, Lilian Orengo, Yarlyn Toro, Madison Wojcik, Francesca Derosa, Kayli Hoefs, Grace Patrei, Emily Schaufelberg, Yariana Toro, Antonia May and Sydney Szczepanik.

“Our best players are our hardest workers,” Amsterdam varsity coach Eric Duemler said when speaking about one of the most celebrated varsity teams in the program’s history.

The 2016-2017 Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team achieved an 18 win season against only five losses. Led by seniors Nina Fedullo, Grace Catena, Maria Lomanto, Brady Santiago, and Janina Sjoerg. The team won its third straight Foothills Council South Division title, competed against and were victorious among some of the best high school basketball teams in and outside of New York State, and reached their second straight NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A title game, becoming the first girls team in school history to accomplishment the feat. Among the reasons why the team was so successful, Duemler noted one that should not be overlooked, the fact that the team members never missed a practice.

The Lady Rams varsity practiced over 70 times and on only one occasion did someone have to miss a practice, but that was when senior guard Brady Santiago had a tooth displaced during a late season game. Santiago wanted to attend practice the following day, but a visit to the dentist was a necessity.

Each of the five seniors on this year’s varsity team will be recognized for their accomplishments in the school and NYSPHSAA Section 2 record books. Duemler introduced the five senior members of the team.

“A great teammate,” Duemler said of Janina Sjoberg, who came over from Finland as an international exchange student. Sjoberg typified the effort of the Lady Rams teams, never missing a practice in her only season on the varsity team. She scored 17 points during the 2016-2017 campaign, a school best for an international exchange student on the Amsterdam girls varsity basketball team.

“A very dedicated basketball player,” was how Duemler described three year varsity senior Maria Lomanto. The granddaughter of St. Mary’s and Bishop Scully High School coach Dutch Howlan, Lomanto received the Starfish Award from the Seward family, noting her dedication to the game. During her career on the varsity team, she scored 401 career points, and made good on 81 shots from three point range. Lomanto converted 40 attempts from beyond the arc this year and joined teammate Brady Santiago in the NYSPHSAA Section 2 record book for making 40 or more three point baskets.

“A leader by example,” said Duemler of Grace Catena. Also a three year varsity player, Catena played every position on the court for Amsterdam and scored a total of 222 points. Catena was most successful from the free throw line where she netted 56 of 71 attempts from the line. Her 80 percent efficiency rating from the foul line was not only a team best, but among the best in Section 2. Catena was also a popular coach during the Lady Rams clinics. Duemler noted Catena will continue her academic career at Russell Sage College.

“She loves basketball, no doubt,” Duemler said of Brady Santiago, who spent four years on the Lady Rams varsity team. Santiago already had her name in the Section 2 record book from last season when she made good on 44 three point shots. Overall, Santiago netted 91 career triples helping increase a versatile Amsterdam offense. Her achievements on the defensive side should not be overlooked, as Santiago often drew the tough assignments week after week during the season. Santiago and teammate Maria Lomanto are also the first teammates in the history of the Lady Rams basketball program to enter into the Section 2 record book with each making more than 40 three points shots during a season. Santiago scored a total of 578 points during her career putting her in the top ten on the school’s girls basketball scoring list.

“A leader and role model,” Duemler said of the school’s all time scoring leader in girls basketball, Nina Fedullo. Over a four year career on the varsity team Fedullo set a new school record with an even 1,500 points putting her in the top 50 (no. 48) on the all-time career scoring list for NYSPHSAA Section 2 girls basketball. Fedullo set the new school mark by surpassing Amy Jo Stewart’s total of 954 in only her junior year. Fedullo also set a new school single season mark with 445 points in 2015-2016, and became the first girls basketball player in school history with back-to-back seasons with 400 points or more, netting a total of 441 this season. Fedullo gathered a career total of 856 rebounds and shot a remarkable 54 percent from the field. She will be the 29th Lady Rams basketball player to play college basketball and only the second to receive a full scholarship. In addition, Fedullo was the team’s Section 2 Scholar Athlete representative for the second year in a row. Fedullo will continue her academic and athletic career at the College of St. Rose.

Duemler also noted accomplishments of some of the junior members of the varsity team including point guard Lucia Liverio’s 124 assists during the 2016- 2017 season, the most by a Lady Rams basketball player in the last twenty years. Fellow junior Giuliana Pritchard was second on the team in scoring this year posting 292 points, and giving her 478 points over the last two seasons. A member of the varsity team since an eighth grader, Pritchard continues to climb on the schools all-time scoring chart and will look to become only the second player to score 1,000 points for a career. Pritchard will be focusing on playing Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball for the spring sports season. Both Pritchard and Liverio will be counted on for their leadership next season on a team that will include Taylor Flint, Gianna Derosa, Elena Fedullo, and junior varsity call-ups Antonia May, Megan Lamont, and Madison Wojcik. The 2016-2017 Lady Rams varsity basketball team was also once again among the best Scholar Athlete Teams from Section 2.

The coaches and senior players also thanked several members of the community who made success of the program possible. Among them were team trainer Carla Pasquarelli, scorekeepers Bill and Patti Wills, Barry Rouse, the master of ceremonies for the event and announcer at Lady Rams games, Athletic Director Steve Nolan, Amsterdam School District Superintendent Vicky Ramos, Lady Rams Booster club President Carmie Sollecito, and the Liverio and Fedullo families, as well as all who helped with the concession stands. The Lady Rams basketball program also made sure to recognize Barkley Elementary School student Abby Grant, who was at every Lady Rams game this season. Grant helped organize efforts to support the Lady Rams during their run to become the schools first girls sports team to win a sectional title. Grant along with 300 of her fellow Barkley students signed a banner in support of the Lady Rams that was displayed at the championship game at HVCC. Grant was a guest at Tuesday’s banquet and joined the varsity team for a photograph with the Section 2 Class A runner up plaque.

She also heard the words of encouragement the five seniors expressed to their teammates, who will strive to move forward and win that title.

“Cherish every moment,” “Continue to work hard every time you step on the court,” Build memories that will last a lifetime,” and “Continue to work hard, we almost got it done, you can.”

Author’s notes:

The 2016-2017 Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team had four members complete their careers in the schools’ top 25 scoring for girls basketball. Nina Fedullo, Brady Santiago, Maria Lomanto, and Grace Catena all finished among the school’s best. The only other team to have four members in the top 25 was the 1993-1994 team (Kerri Ochal, Liz Hildreth, Lisa Davey, and Erica Sheckton), and were the first girls basketball team in school history to reach a Section 2 final.

When I attended one of the Lady Rams clinics in February, I had heard about Brady Santiago’s injury and asked Coach Duemler; “How’s Brady?” He responded by telling me she had to see the dentist because she had a tooth knocked out, but she still wanted to be at practice. It’s remarkable how dedicated this team was, and how comparable they were to the 1993-194 team. Last night, I learned who the enthusiastic young girl was at the clinic who couldn’t wait to tell the coach what she had learned. That was Abby Grant. I said to him that hearing what she said makes the clinics all the more worthwhile. Connecting with the younger students helped the basketball teams connect with the community. That along with dedication and enthusiasm will help them win that title, perhaps very soon.

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.