Lady Rams top Queensbury, head back to Class A final

The 2016-2017 Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team has already done something that no girls sports program has done in school history. Tuesday night at Colonie High School, they became the first AHS girls team to reach a sectional final for a second consecutive season. Amsterdam’s “sharing the ball” concept was on full display as eight different Lady Rams scored in a 71-47 semi-final victory over the Queensbury Lady Spartans, and has given them another shot at defending champion Averill Park in Friday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Class A final at Hudson Valley Community College.

“Before each game we talk about what we are going to do in the first four minutes,” Amsterdam senior Nina Fedullo said. “We all come out and make it ‘our’ first four minutes.”

The Lady Rams certainly did that in emphatic fashion. Lucia Liverio scored only seconds after the opening tip, and following the first of many turnovers the Lady Rams would create during the game, on a steal by Nina Fedullo, Maria Lomanto scored to make it 4-0 AHS. Fedullo expanded it to 6-0 before a three by Hope Sullivan got Queensbury on the board. Grace Catena’s drive to the rim made it 8-3 AHS starting a 7-0 AHS run that included a pair of free throws by Fedullo and a three point shot by Lomanto. After four minutes, Amsterdam was off to a good start, up 13-3. Sullivan scored again for the Lady Spartans, but it would be her last points of the game as the Lady Rams did a good job of keeping tabs on her and Meghan O’ Connor, the duo had teamed up for 32 points against Mohonasen, but against Amsterdam managed just 11 points.

“They have a lot of different kids who can shoot,” Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler said. “We focused on all of them.”

Queensbury rallied with a 7-0 run of their own behind the rebounding talents of senior Emma Hayes, who led the Lady Spartans with 15 points, and freshman Hailey Ballard as the upset minded sixth seed pulled to within 15- 10 at the end of the first quarter, and 15-12 in the early moments of the second quarter after a put back by Hayes, but it would be as close as they would get. Brady Santiago netted the first of her two triples in the second frame to push AHS out in front 18-12 and followed that up with an assist on the first points by Giuliana Pritchard, who along with Nina Fedullo had a “double-double.” Amsterdam was up 20-12 and sped up the pace forcing Queensbury to try and keep up.

“We focused on a good, young Queensbury team,” Coach Duemler said. “In the second we turned up the intensity.”

The battle was close to the rim throughout much of the second quarter with Nina Fedullo and Catena making good on free throws to keep Amsterdam in front 24-15. Catena took a pass from Liverio after a Queensbury turnover and the Lady Rams senior gave AHS two more points in an effective transition game for Amsterdam. Hayes kept Queensbury in the game fighting for every rebound, and scored eight of her team high total in the second period to keep Queensbury within striking distance. Santiago’s second shot from behind the arc provided an expanding lead for the Lady Rams at 31-17, and came at a critical time. Hayes and Caitlin Bolen (9 points) led Queensbury on a late spurt making it 33-22 at the half as Amsterdam was getting a lot of people involved in the scoring, but needed to clamp down on Hayes from getting rebounds and second chance points.

“We knew we had to get out on their shooters and boxed out,” Coach Duemler said. “We tightened things up in the second half.”

Nina Fedullo scored Amsterdam’s first five points in the second half giving the Lady Rams a 37-24 lead. O’ Connor cut it back to a ten point margin with her only three of the game, and the freshman point guard for the Lady Spartans scored all six of her points in the third quarter. However, the dominant force for the Lady Rams, Nina Fedullo and Pritchard, put up 13 of AHS’ 17 points in the period keeping them comfortably in front. A three from Lomanto and a pass from Fedullo to Pritchard cutting to the basket carved out a 42-27 AHS lead. Catena saved a play underneath the Queensbury basket that Liverio quickly moved ahead to Pritchard for two more, and continued an 11-0 AHS run in the middle of the third quarter to create a twenty point advantage at 49-29. Amsterdam kept Hayes and Ballard out of the scoring column in the third and went up 50-32 headed to the final eight minutes.

“Seeing what they did against Mohonasen helped us know where their shooters were on the court,” Amsterdam junior Giuliana Pritchard said. “Knowing they were getting some second chance rebounds made us work so much harder. We have so many options on this team on offense, and then some. We were aggressive and fought for every rebound, and we wanted it more than they did.”

Amsterdam continued to share the ball right through the fourth quarter. A pass from Pritchard to Nina Fedullo cutting to the rim increased the lead to 52- 32, and a pass from Liverio to Lomanto turned into the fifth three point make for the Lady Rams duo of Lomanto and Santiago, who for the first time all season did not connect for a triple in their previous game against Lansingburgh, but were on target in the semi-final. A pass from Liverio to Pritchard made it 59-38, and the Lady Rams could sense that second chance for a sectional title was becoming a reality. Abby Doin scored six of her eight points in the fourth quarter for Queensbury. Gianna Derosa became the eighth Lady Ram to score on a lay up late in the fourth and then dished out an assist to Elena Fedullo in the closing seconds, but as the final horn sounded, the celebration was kept to a minimum. The Lady Rams know that making a second straight sectional final is not the goal.

“I’m very proud of the girls,” Coach Duemler said. “They are very dedicated and are working very hard. We still have a goal ahead of us.”

Nina Fedullo added 11 rebounds to her 20 points, and Pritchard coplimented her 15 point effort with 10 rebounds giving them both “double-double’s” in the same game for the seventh time this season. Lomanto was next with 11 points including three triples. Catena followed that effort with nine points and five rebounds, Elena Fedullo and Santiago each had six points, with Santiago connecting for a pair of threes. Liverio and Derosa each had two points and teamed up for five assists, Antonia May contributed an assist, and Taylor Flint and Janina Sjoberg put in some good minutes for Amsterdam (18-4). The Lady Rams have now exceeded last year’s win total and have another chance for at least one more.

“It would mean everything,” Pritchard said when asked about the importance of a sectional title. “We all trust each other and support each other. We know we can do it. It would be amazing.”

Amsterdam moves on to face Averill Park in the NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A final at Hudson Valley Community College, scheduled to tip off at 7:45pm. The Lady Warriors were 69-47 winners over Gloversville in the second semi-final at Colonie. Stephanie Jankovic led Averill Park (13-9) with 17 points. A win in the title game for Amsterdam would mean the first for a girls sports team in school history. A fact that the Lady Rams are well aware of.

“Queensbury is a well coached team and was a good challenge for us,” Coach Duemler said. “If we can execute our game plan against Averill Park, we have a chance.”

Amsterdam played Averill Park in last year’s Class A final and came close to victory, but a late run by the Lady Warriors was the deciding factor. The Lady Rams now have a second chance to finish first.

“We got there last year, and we know we have to work that much harder to get back and get it done,” Nina Fedullo said. “We’re making history.”

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.