Section 2 championship remains elusive for Lady Rams basketball

Late in the fourth quarter of Friday night’s NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A girls basketball final between the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity team and Averill Park, a shot by Amsterdam junior Giuliana Pritchard bounced off the rim and was batted around by several players. A scramble developed on the floor with Pritchard and teammate Grace Catena trying to wrestle the ball away from a trio of Lady Warriors. Catena managed to push the ball toward Pritchard, then stood up. Pritchard, while sitting on the floor passed it back to Catena, who saw teammate Nina Fedullo cutting to the basket and then passed it to her for a lay up. It was the perfect example of the effort the Lady Rams showed throughout the game – and the entire season – in their quest for the school’s first girls sports team title. It wasn’t enough to stop a 64-43 Averill Park victory at Hudson Valley Community College, but it was more than enough to show the Lady Warriors that they could not break the heart, the will, or the determined spirit of the Lady Rams.

“We fought to the very end,” said Amsterdam senior Nina Fedullo, who led the Lady Rams with 14 points. “As long as you go out there and give one hundred percent, that’s all you can ask for from a team. And we did that.”

The Lady Rams continued to give it their best despite their struggles on the court. Amsterdam made only 18 of 58 shots from the field, including making no three point shots on twelve attempts. Averill Park didn’t fare much better making 21 of 49 shots from the floor, but seven of those makes were three point shots by senior Kat Stackrow, who had a game high 24 points, and picked up the Section 2 Class A tournament most valuable player honor. Throughout the game, whenever the Lady Rams tried to make a run, Stackrow would hit a three to extend the Lady Warriors lead. Averill Park out-rebounded the Lady Rams 38 to 25, with Lady Warriors freshman Kelsey Wood collecting 16 overall, and 13 of APHS’ 27 defensive rebounds, denying the Lady Rams second chance opportunities, something that had been a bright spot in Amsterdam’s overall game. Averill Park also made more trips to the free throw line than Amsterdam did, connecting on 15 of 23 attempts from the line. Amsterdam hit just over half, at seven for thirteen. Yet despite all the shortcomings, the Lady Rams continued to execute their game the same way they had done since they first began playing together.

“We tried with every basket to stay in it,” Pritchard said. “We kept attacking the basket, attacking the rim, and we never gave up and fought back every step of the way. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We should be proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

When the final horn sounded it brought an end to the high school basketball careers of Nina Fedullo, Grace Catena, Brady Santiago, and Maria Lomanto, all of whom were a part of the AHS varsity for three or four years. The four of them, along with Janina Sjoberg represented this year’s senior class, and will be remembered as among the program’s best to ever set foot on the AHS court.

“I’m going to miss them,” Pritchard said of the seniors. “We all grew up together. We created this chemistry, and when we executed our game you can see past the winning and losing.”

The five Lady Rams seniors helped take the Amsterdam Lady Rams basketball program further than any class before it. The 1993-1994, and 2007-2008 Amsterdam Lady Rams teams both won Big 10 titles, with the 1993-1994 team making it to the Section 2 Class B title game before falling to Burnt Hills. The 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 Lady Rams teams gave us 20 win seasons, but fell short of making the sectional title game. Only the 2015-2016 and the current Amsterdam Lady Rams teams made it to back to back New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 title game

Looking back and looking ahead

Nina Fedullo became the schools all time leading scorer setting a new mark in only her junior year and then moving on to score over 1400 points overall to place her second on the schools all time list for both girls and boys basketball. But, the records didn’t matter to Fedullo. The one goal that did was winning the schools first sectional title for a girls sports team. Fedullo instilled confidence and determination in her teammates and led them to the final game, twice. Her leadership on the court made the Lady Rams success possible. She will continue her basketball career at the College of St. Rose where she will try for an NCAA title. Fedullo has left that goal of winning a high school basketball title within reach for the next generation.

“We’ve been playing together since we were little,” Fedullo said of her teammates. “My dad coached us and then [AHS coach Eric Duemler]. It’s been a fun ride for me and my teammates. We’ve been together since we were seven. I will miss playing with my team and helping the kids at the clinics.”

It’s no accident that eighth grader Antonia May’s game is beginning to resemble that of Fedullo’s. May led the Amsterdam junior varsity team in scoring this year and was called up to varsity before the end of the season.

“She’s one of the players I look up to,” May said of Fedullo. “She’s been really nice, and gives me a lot of support.”

May will be part of a team next season that will include junior point guard Lucia Liverio, who scored a season high 12 points on Friday. Liverio and May will be part of a team that will include returning starters Pritchard, and Elena Fedullo, along with Talyor Flint, Gianna Derosa, Megan Lamont, and Madison Wojick, as well as more new additions when basketball teams form next season.

Liverio also happens to be May’s aunt.

“We have the potential to get back here,” Liverio said. “Some of us have been playing together for years, and I will be playing with my niece, which will be fun to see.”

Both Liverio and May are capable of connecting from three point range, something that the team will need, as much of its beyond-the-arc production will graduate in June.

As formidable as Amsterdam was with both Nina Fedullo and Giuliana Pritchard developing their games and leading the way, Amsterdam was an even tougher opponent with the emergence of Brady Santiago and Maria Lomanto as long-range scoring threats. Santiago connected for 44 triples in her junior year putting herself among Section 2’s best. Lomanto brought AHS back in this year’s game against Glens Falls with four in one quarter. This season both seniors connected for more than 20 three point shots resulting in frustration for any team leaving them unguarded while trying to focus on their teammates. What also should be noted is that Santiago won the Sportsmanship Award at the Mecca Tournament in NYC last season. Sportsmanship is another quality she and her teammates share, and there’s more.

“They are both fearless when shooting from three point range,” Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler has said after numerous games this season.

Janina Sjoberg fit right in with the Lady Rams family from the very start.

“The girls like her,” Coach Duemler said of Sjoberg.

Sjoberg plans on returning to Senior Secondary School in Finland after completing this year at AHS, and takes with her friendships she has made here in the USA as well as the experience and memories of playing on one of Amsterdam High School’s best girls basketball teams.

In the Lady Rams senior night program, Sjoberg wrote that her favorite basketball memory was the season’s first game against Niskayuna.

“I never thought a team could turn into a family just before a game and be so ready to work together,” she wrote.

A student of the game, Grace Catena’s success is reflected in the eyes and smiles of the young children she teaches at the Lady Rams basketball clinic. Catena also typified the idea of “giving one hundred percent” that Fedullo said was part of the Lady Rams game.

“Grace always gives her best effort,” Coach Duemler said after the Lady Rams first game of the season against Niskayuna, and reiterated during the year. “She gives every ounce she has.”

Catena has been an active, essential, and positive presence for the Lady Rams making sure that play after play was executed the right way, because that’s how she and her teammates learned to play the game; the right way with ability, intelligence, honor, dedication and heart. It would not come as a surprise to anyone to see Catena coaching the game one day, perhaps at AHS.

The goal of winning a sectional title now passes to the next generation who will certainly take to heart what the current group of seniors have accomplished.

“They have so much to be proud of,” Coach Duemler said.“The things they have done this year are so much more than wins and losses. The credit goes to the girls. They are an extremely dedicated team with a lot to be proud of. We’ll go back to work with the spring team. It takes a while to get over a loss like this. We have a young, athletic team coming up and hopefully we can get back here again. Our expectation is to get back here again.”

Both Nina Fedullo and Giuliana Pritchard were named to the 2017 NYSPHSAA Section 2 Class A All Tournament Team along with Stackrow and Kelsey Wood of Averill Park, Gloversville sophomore Harmony Philo, and Queensbury freshman Hope Sullivan.

Scoring summary

Amsterdam (18-5): Nina Fedullo- 14pts, Lucia Liverio- 12pts, Giuliana Pritchard- 8pts, Grace Catena- 5pts, Maria Lomanto- 2pts, Brady Santiago- 2pts, Elena Fedullo- 2 rebounds.

Averill Park (14-9): Kat Stackrow- 24pts, Mallory Wood and Kelsey Wood- 23pts, Stephanie Jankovic- 8pts, Olivia Kelley- 5pts, Lena Piche- 4pts, Emmalee Morgan- 1 rebound.

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.