By ADAM SHINDER
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- With three sophomores, a freshman and an eighth grader all logging significant minutes, the early portion of this girls basketball season is a bit of a learning experience for the Amsterdam Lady Rams.
Friday night's 43-29 victory over the Schenectady Lady Patriots provided two lessons -- that the Lady Rams can be a shutdown defense for extended periods of time, and that if they want to keep up that reputation, they'll need to keep opposing teams off the foul line.
Relying mostly on a 3-2 zone Friday night, the Lady Rams (1-1, 1-1 Big 10) held Schenectady to an abysmal 7-of-47 shooting performance from the field -- which allowed Amsterdam to overcome the 28 fouls whistled against the team that resulted in 32 Schenectady free throws.
"We fouled way too much and they shot way too many foul shots. The initial defense was fine, we have to do a better job rebounding," Amsterdam head coach Eric Duemler said. "We can't put them at the line (more than) 30 times."
Fortunately for the Lady Rams' cause, Schenectady's shooting woes carried over to the free throw line -- the Lady Patriots were just 15-of-32 at the charity stripe -- and Amsterdam was able to overcome a slow offensive start of its own to pull away down the stretch.
Freshman Nina Fedullo led the way for Amsterdam, scoring 13 of her game-high 14 points after halftime, while sophomore point guard Kaitlyn Devine chipped in 11 points.
"We have a 10th grader (Devine) playing point guard that's never played point before, she's learning on the fly and she brings a lot of positive things as she's learning," Duemler said. "Nina, first varsity home game as a freshman, and the second half we saw the Fedullo that I expect every game."
Amsterdam never trailed Friday night, and while the Lady Patriots' frequent trips to the free throw line and Amsterdam's own struggles from the field kept Schenectady in the game through three quarters, Amsterdam finally found a rhythm on offense to provide some breathing room early in the fourth quarter.
After shooting just 10-of-41 from the floor through the first three quarters, Amsterdam connected on four straight shots early in the fourth quarter, capped when Devine found Fedullo wide open underneath the basket on an inbounds play to give the Lady Rams a 37-23 lead.
"Our team really works together with those," Devine said of the Lady Rams' inbounds plays, which worked for easy baskets several times Friday.
Duemler said that those opportunities were there earlier in the game as well, but it took some time for the Lady Rams to settle into an offensive groove and convert in the paint.
"If we could've made layups in the first half, it would've been a different game," Duemler said. "Second half we made our layups, fourth quarter we made our two-footers and three-footers, and our offense is geared for getting two and three-footers. Just relax, finish like they do in practice."
By the time the Lady Rams got their finishing skills down, they'd done enough work on defense that Schenectady couldn't establish enough of a rhythm to overcome 14.9 percent shooting and 25 turnovers.
"We worked together as a team and we got it done," Fedullo said.
Friday's win leads the Lady Rams into a key stretch of their early-season schedule, with next week featuring a Tuesday night trip to Catholic Central before Troy makes a Friday night visit to AHS.
"This is a team that's gonna improve week to week because of our youth and lack of experience," Duemler said. "We'll be much better even in two weeks than we were tonight."
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