Lady Rams basketball advance to third straight final with win against Holy Names

The Lady Rams basketball team played a solid defense and overcame a first-quarter deficit to secure a 55-36 semifinal victory over Academy of Holy Names on Tuesday night at Colonie High School. The win advances the team to their third straight New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Section 2 Class A final.

“They (Holy Names) came out and made every shot,” Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler said. “Then our girls came out and played lock down defense, especially in the second and third quarters.”

Holy Names broke out to a 17-6 lead in the first quarter led by the inside-outside game of Grace Field and Mackenzie Ward (team high 13 points). The duo teamed up to score 15 of Holy Names total in the opening period. A basket by Field in the first minute of the second quarter boosted it to 19-6 before the Lady Rams “one-three-one” zone began to wreak havoc on yet another opponent.

“There wasn’t panic,” Coach Duemler said. “We had good possessions and got the tips and deflections we needed. Our defense started to take over.”

A strong move inside by Elena Fedullo halted the Holy Names run making it 19-8. AHS Freshman Jackie Stanavich tipped away a pass to the Holy Names front court and raced down the floor eventually knocking down a pair of free throws cutting the lead to single digits. Stanavich’s first eight points all came from the free throw stripe as the first-year varsity player provided some much needed energy for the Amsterdam offense after Holy Names tried to contain AHS standout senior Giuliana Pritchard, who was held to only two first-half points. But, as opposing teams have learned throughout the season, Amsterdam is about more than just one player.

“The most important thing is that it’s not just one person,” Pritchard said. “It’s all of us. It’s all five players working together on the court, and five is always better than one.”

Amsterdam freshman Antonia May followed Stanavich’s effort with a baseline drive that surprised the Holy Names defense. May, who is known for her long distance shooting and leads the Lady Rams with 34 three-point goals, did more damage taking the ball to the rim. Moments later, Pritchard used her lengthy arms and tipped away another Holy Names pass turning it into two more points, slicing the lead to 20-14. Stanavich made her way to the free throw line twice more before the first half was done and chopped three points off the Holy Names lead.

“I knew it wouldn’t be our last game,” Stanavich said. “In order to make it happen, someone had to step up.”

As Holy Names tried to contain Pritchard, her teammates did what they had to do. All of them got involved in the scoring. That well-balanced effort on offense became the perfect compliment to the Lady Rams solid defense. Stanavich stole yet another Holy Names attempt and got the ball to Taylor Flint, who stepped to the line for two. Flint’s second attempt bounced off the rim, but Fedullo boxed out and turned it into two more, trimming the Holy Names lead to just one, 20-19 at the half. All four of Fedullo’s offensive rebounds for the game were turned into points.

“We just battled,” Coach Duemler said. “We had a pretty balanced scoring effort on offense.”

The Lady Rams kept the momentum flowing in the second half. After a put back by Field extended the Holy Names lead to three, Amsterdam powered their way to a 17-0 run in the third quarter ignited by a strong move by Fedullo inside the Holy Names defense. Stanavich took a pass from AHS point guard Lucia Liverio giving Amsterdam it’s first lead of the game, and a deficit that Holy Names would never recover from. Another steal by Stanavich, then another strong move to the rim on an inbound pass play by May, and Amsterdam’s lead grew in historic proportions. The next score was a little history in itself.

Pritchard came into Tuesday’s game needing only four points to pass her uncle Mike Sollecito on the all-time Amsterdam basketball scoring list. The Lady Rams leading scorer had been held to only two points for the first half, but with Holy Names reeling from every Lady Rams player getting on the scoreboard, they couldn’t contain Pritchard, and she made them pay for it. The senior captain put the ball on the floor and drove right of the rim netting two more, good for a third-place all-time high at AHS.

“I grew up learning just how amazing he was,” Pritchard said of her uncle. “He told me about his record when I was three or four points away. It’s an amazing feeling. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”

Sollecito held the AHS scoring record with 1,221 points until he was passed by Todd Cetnar (1,621 pts)

in 1995. Yet, Sollecito played before the introduction of the three point shot, so his points came close to the rim. Coincidentally, the majority of Pritchard’s points have as well.

With the Lady Rams offense rolling, Holy Names called a time-out looking for answers, but found none. Out of the time out, Liverio saw May in the left corner, and the freshman greeted Holy Names with a three point shot giving AHS its largest lead of the game 32-22. Pritchard finished the big run with a steal for two, and a put back for two more. The Lady Rams led 37-24 after three quarters, and outscored Holy Names 31-7 in the middle periods. Amsterdam’s defense was better than the team that dominated the Colonial Conference with strong defense.

“Holy Names plays great defense,” Coach Duemler said. “We have size and quickness, and we got the tips and deflections so we could get in transition. We live off of that.”

Holy Names started the scoring in the fourth quarter on a positive getting three from Keira Cohen. The Lady Rams then responded with another big run scoring eleven consecutive points to put the game away. May, Fedullo, Pritchard and Stanavich all scored giving AHS an overwhelming 48-27 lead. Liverio delivered the final blow with a block on a shot by Field, denying the potential tournament all star candidate who finished with a “double-double” with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The third freshman who began the season on the AHS varsity roster, Charli Beekman, finished the scoring for the Lady Rams showing her quickness on a drive to the net. The three AHS freshman scored 30 of the Lady Rams points. Stanavich had 14 as part of her own “double-double” along with 14 rebounds. May also had 14 points including the only three point basket for AHS. Beekman had two points with two rebounds in her minutes off the bench. It’s been a season’s worth of growing maturity as varsity players for the young Lady Rams.

“We don’t at look our freshman as ninth graders,” Coach Duemler said. “Jackie (Stanavich), Toni (May), and Charli (Beekman) will all be tremendous in a couple of years. I’m very proud of this group. I’m proud of this team.”

Pritchard, Fedullo, and Liverio provided more balance in the AHS offense. Fedullo scored 10 points and came up with six rebounds. Liverio added two points with two rebounds and four assists, and Pritchard finished with 13 points and seven rebounds after going scoreless in the first quarter.

“I knew I just had to keep working through it,” Pritchard said. “It was a bunch of hustle and hard work.”

Pritchard’s leadership has had an impact on the younger Lady Rams particularly Stanavich, who arrived on the AHS varsity after playing her only organized school basketball with St. Mary’s Institute, and in the summer leagues.

“She’s a second coach,” Stanavich said of Pritchard’s influence. “We connected from the start playing together in the summer AAU league. We work together, passing each other the ball, and we’ve really picked it up. Now we want to finish this season with a big win.”

Amsterdam (20-2) advances to play in the Section 2 Class A title game on Friday night, 7:45pm at Hudson Valley Community College where they will face a familiar foe in Averill Park (20-2). The defending champion Lady Warriors defeated Gloversville 73-43 in the second semifinal on Tuesday night at Colonie. Averill Park has won the last four Class A crowns including the last two over Amsterdam, and seven of the last eight. The Lady Rams will have to defy the odds if they are to win the first girls sports title in school history. But defying the odds is something that many have felt they have been doing all season.

“A lot of people thought we were rebuilding this year,” Coach Duemler said. “Yet, we’re back again to represent our school and our community. We’ll go out there and do the best we can. All we need is a chance, and Friday we get that chance.”

Friday’s championship game will be the third for Giuliana Pritchard and Lucia Liverio. They were both part of the 2015-2016 AHS team that won over Troy, and the 2016-2017 team that won over Queensbury, both times sending them to final match-ups against Averill Park that came up short. Friday night they will lead the Lady Rams for another chance to make school history and take home the elusive Section 2 Class A trophy.

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.