AHS girls basketball improve to 3-0 with win over Johnstown

After a challenging game with league rival Gloversville in their home opener a week ago, the Amsterdam Lady Rams varsity basketball team has dominated their last two opponents, topping Broadalbin-Perth by 40 points on Monday, and on Thursday night led from start to finish in defeating Johnstown 80- 45 at Warren Street Elementary School improving to 3-0 in the Foothills Council.

“We go into every game with the same mentality,” Amsterdam senior Giuliana Pritchard said. “We’re strong mentally and physically, and we’re strong enough and smart enough to get through.”

That mental toughness comes from playing together even before the season started. The Lady Rams feature three freshman on the varsity roster who at one time attended the Lady Rams annual basketball clinics where they learned from the varsity players, and also played with those same players on the Amsterdam Xplosion summer league team that won a title during this past summer. Two of the freshman; Jackie Stanavich and Antonia May are in the Lady Rams starting lineup along with Pritchard, senior Lucia Liverio, and junior Elena Fedullo. Thursday night, Stanavich, a power forward teamed up with Pritchard and Fedullo to dominate close to the rims combining for 55 of the team’s season-high point total.

“We want to attack the rim,” Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler said. “We’ve spent a lot of time on foul shots, pushing the ball, and attacking the rim. We make our foul shots and that’s good for us.”

Amsterdam took the ball to the basket early and often opening up a 28-7 first quarter lead. Stanavich scored 14 of her game-high 22 points in the first eight minutes with four points coming on offensive rebounds, and four from the free throw line. Pritchard broke through the Johnstown Lady Bills defense multiple times netting eight of her 21 points in the first quarter, two from the line.

“Giuliana (Pritchard) is as strong as can be,” Coach Duemler said. “And Jackie is so athletic. It’s a tough mix.”

Pritchard kept the game flowing in Amsterdam’s favor with five points in the second quarter, three from the foul line, and Fedullo stepped in and scored two of her 12 points in the period helping the Lady Rams to a 49-20 lead at halftime.

As good as the Lady Rams front court was, the play of the AHS guards pushing the ball up the court with continued success even when Johnstown tried to press, was another key part of the victory. Liverio and May assisted on several scores, and when Taylor Flint, Gianna Derosa, Charli Beekman, and Kim Lopez stepped in, the momentum continued to flow in the Lady Rams favor. The smart play of the guards led to many successful AHS possessions and few turnovers. The guards also did not try to force the ball to the front court, and when inside shots weren’t available they took good shots from the perimeter, or drove to the basket with Liverio, Flint, Beekman, Derosa and Lopez scoring in the first half. Their quickness on the court was another element that has helped AHS to three wins in three games.

“We’re hoping to put that speed to our advantage,” Coach Duemler said. “We’re already unselfish, and that plays to our advantage.”

That unselfish play began long before the 2017-2018 season and was etched in the minds of opposing teams during the summer league where the younger players took the court alongside the veteran varsity players who had already seen success reaching back to back sectional title games.

“I think in the summer league it made us comfortable playing together,” Pritchard said. “It was about us getting used to each other and learning what our strengths are, and what we can work on.”

Pritchard played for both the Amsterdam Xplosion and a Saratoga AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) team during the summer and certainly looked comfortable playing with Stanavich, whose game resembles that of her senior teammate. The AHS front court duo assisted on each others scoring attempts in the third quarter as Amsterdam expanded its’ lead to 66-34 heading into the final eight minutes. Stanavich’s ability to get to the rim has made her a valuable scoring option for the Lady Rams, and one other teams must contend with while also trying to defend Pritchard. So far this season, there has been no answer to defending them both.

“The style we’re playing fits right in with how she (Stanavich) likes to play,” Coach Duemler said.

Fedullo continued to win the battle inside for the Rams scoring six points in the third including the last five of the third, and also assisted on scores by both Pritchard and Stanavich. The three of them also teamed up for 24 of AHS’ 38 rebounds.

As the fourth quarter began the only Lady Rams player who hadn’t scored yet was May, but with just less than four minutes left to play the freshman guard rained one down from the three point arc getting nothing but net and put all nine players to take the court for the Lady Rams in the scoring column, marking the second straight game where everyone in the AHS lineup scored. The 80 points also marked the first time since a February 10, 2017 game at Schuylerville that the Lady Rams reached that high mark.

Anna Lee led the Lady Bills with 17 points. Meghan Mraz was next with ten points, Jesse VanNostrand had five points, Abby Vanderwalker and Alison Morey each scored four, Kanako Sasaki netted three, and Amber Tesi had two points for Johnstown (0-3).

Charli Beekman scored a career best eight points for the Lady Rams. Kim Lopez also had her career high with six points on a pair of threes, Lucia Liverio scored four points, Antonia May had three points, and Taylor Flint and Gianna Derosa accounted for two points each for Amsterdam (3-0).

With her 21 point effort, Pritchard now has 769 points for her varsity career, only six points shy of passing Sue Blazejewski (774) on the all time scoring list. That could come as early as next week when the Lady Rams host a pair of Foothills Council north division foes starting with South Glens Falls on Monday, and then defending league champion Glens Falls on Thursday night. Varsity start times are slated for 7pm. The Lady Rams will be looking for plenty of fan support which has been outstanding so far this season.

“The fans and student body have been awesome,” Coach Duemler said. “And that will grow.”

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.