Photo submitted Members of the Foothills Hoop Club eighth-grade girls AAU basketball team are shown after a 2014 tournament. Shown, from left, are: Camryn Meca, Gabby Langley, Gabby Brown, Sydney Sheldon, Kerri Hauser, Jasmine Gonzalez, Alex Benfatti, Harmony Philo, Jackie Akey and Jesse VanNostrand.
By MICHAEL KELLY
The results from their first foray onto the national scene did not overwhelm, but the members of the Foothills Hoop Club eighth-grade girls AAU basketball team are known for their resilience.
When the majority of the 10 girls that make up head coach Mike Philo's team first got together four years ago, the results were disastrous. The club -- which now features six players from Gloversville, two from Mayfield, and one each from Broadalbin and Northville -- only scored 10 points in its first game together, a 34-point drubbing, and things did not get much better from there.
"That first year was tough," said Philo earlier this week. "We went 5 and 25, that was our total record for the first year, and we were barely ever competitive."
"It," said Gloversville's Jasmine Gonzalez, "was not a good time."
But since its first season, the squad has steadily improved. After sporting a .500 record in its second year together, the team used its 2013 and 2014 seasons to win five tournaments and qualify for the AAU national championships earlier this month at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando.
After taking their knocks in Year 1, Philo said it was like watching a different team these past few seasons.
"They totally flipped," he said. "They really grew."
"I think it really had to do with our coaches," said Gonzalez, who is about to be a freshman at Gloversville. "They pushed us and pushed us, and we just really learned from our mistakes."
"We got to know how each other plays better and we connect better when we play together now," said soon-to-be Gloversville eighth-grader Harmony Philo, the coach's daughter. "That first year, nobody knew anybody."
While the club worked itself to an even record in 2012, it was in 2013 that the fun really began. The squad won four tournaments that year, becoming a force on the local AAU circuit.
"We really came together that year and used all of our abilities to start winning a lot of games," said soon-to-be Northville freshman Jesse VanNostrand.
The squad built on its 2013 season with a 24-10 campaign this year, and finished its season at the national championships. The squad qualified to head to Orlando when it won the 13th annual Redhawks Rumble in Albany.
"None of us even knew [that tournament] was to qualify for nationals," said Harmony Philo. "So, we weren't under any pressure. We were just having fun."
Part of the fun was getting to play against girls their own age. The members of the squad spent most of 2014 playing against competition a year older after how well the 2013 season went for the team.
"It was tougher, but we still managed to do it and win games," said VanNostrand. "We know that if we did what we normally do, we can achieve anything."
This year, though, success at nationals was not in the cards for the squad. The club went 0-5 during its trip to Orlando, as the local squad battled some of the country's top teams while it dealt with one injury after another throughout the tournament. The Foothills Hoop Club team had been winning its first game before the injuries started.
"But injuries are part of sports," said Mike Philo, who coaches the team with Harley Fuller and James Sheldon.
"You never know what's going to happen," continued Mike Philo. "Sometimes, the breaks go your way."
Still, the girls each said the trip to Orlando was a memorable one and that the games will serve as motivation for next year when the squad attempts to make it back to the championships after getting its feet wet in 2014.
"It was a great learning experience for us," Mike Philo said.
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