The Recorder

Lady Rams fell short of title, but made big impact

Amsterdam's Giuliana Pritchard (23) and Averill Park's Mallory Wood (33) box out for a rebound during the Section II Class A girls basketball championship game Friday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)

Amsterdam’s Giuliana Pritchard (23) and Averill Park’s Mallory Wood (33) box out for a rebound during the Section II Class A girls basketball championship game Friday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. (Adam Shinder/Recorder staff)

By ADAM SHINDER

@RecorderShinder

The Amsterdam Lady Rams tried to put on a brave face, tried not to let the disappointment show. They clapped along gamely as they watched the Averill Park Warriors, one by one, walk to center court and claim their first-place patches before finally celebrating as they got their hands on yet another Section II Class A girls basketball championship plaque.

For a second straight year, the Lady Rams had to live with second place and tearfully bid farewell to their season and their senior class at Hudson Valley Community College.

But, as they walked out of the locker room about 20 minutes after Friday’s 64-43 championship game loss to Averill Park and into the embrace of their friends and family, the Lady Rams kept things remarkably in perspective.

“We’re blessed to be here, especially two years in a row,” said senior Nina Fedullo. “The outcome obviously isn’t what we wanted, but it takes a lot just to get here.”

That’s certainly true. In fact, until the 2015-16 Lady Rams made it to the sectional final, the program hadn’t made it to a championship game since 1994. Amsterdam teams that stormed through the old Big 10 conference, that were ranked in the state and even nationwide, had their seasons end short of a finals appearance for more than two decades.

These Lady Rams not only got there, they got back.

The result didn’t bear out the way they wanted either time. In 2016, they went toe-to-toe with the Warriors, only for Averill Park to snatch away the title in the final three minutes of a roller coaster game. Friday night, things were less dramatic. A game-opening 14-2 run had the Lady Rams reeling from the start, and once they fought their way closer in the second quarter, Averill Park caught fire again and opened up what proved to be an insurmountable gap.

There were plenty of factors that led to Averill Park’s win, but by simple mathematics, it came down to shooting. The Warriors’ Kat Stackrow knocked down seven 3-pointers on her own; the Lady Rams didn’t make a single one. For an Amsterdam team that knocked down more than 100 3-pointers over the course of the season, it was a rare off-night shooting the ball and it just so happened to come at the worst time imaginable.

So, the story for this group of Lady Rams came to an end, not with championship glory, but the realization that at the end of the season, only one team in every classification gets to walk off the court in celebration following their final game.

This group leaves behind a senior class that will be hard to replicate in years to come.

By any statistical reckoning, Fedullo is the greatest player to ever come through the Amsterdam girls basketball program. Finishing her career within a hair of 1,500 points scored, she’s more than 500 points clear of her closest competition in the program’s record book. After four brilliant seasons in purple, white and gold, she’ll suit up for the College of Saint Rose next winter.

There were the mirror images of Maria Lomanto and Brady Santiago, both multi-year contributors with a knack for streaky shooting and lockdown defense. Grace Catena was a utility player extraordinaire whose move into the starting lineup for this year’s sectional run gave the Lady Rams added versatility for the stretch run. Janina Sjoberg was the late addition, an exchange student from Finland who joined the team this season and drew cheers every time she got on the court.

They’re a group that’s become idolized in the Amsterdam community for their contributions on and off the court.

“The seniors are leaving things behind that are gonna last longer than any victory or any loss, because we have young seven, eight, nine, 10-year-olds that dream to be our girls,” Amsterdam coach Eric Duemler said.

As much weight as the departing seniors carried, don’t count out the Lady Rams for the future just yet. When Giuliana Pritchard comes back for her senior season, it will be her fifth as a varsity starter who has developed into one of the section’s most dangerous frontcourt players. Lucia Liverio returns for a third year as point guard, Elena Fedullo flashed potential all year long to become an intimidating force in the post and both Taylor Flint and Gianna DeRosa earned valuable experience off the bench. There’s also a strong crop coming through the ranks, including eighth-grader Antonia May, who earned a late-season varsity call-up.

“It hurts to say goodbye (to the seniors), just because I’ve grown with them and played with them for so long,” Pritchard said. “But, we have so much talent coming up that I think we can all work together to learn how to be a great team where we all play together and everybody trusts each other. That’s the team we want to be next season.”

Contact ADAM SHINDER at adam.shinder@recordernews.com