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Section II Thursday Thoughts

The sectional basketball finals are set across all classes after Thursday night action.

We’ll talk about the Class A boys in the back half of this recap, but last night I changed it up and went over to Hudson Valley to watch the Class AA girls’ semifinals. That turned out to be a great decision. There was some great basketball played last night, including a huge Shen upset over Shaker.

My overall impressions?

Game 1: Albany 51, Bethlehem 47

This was unlike any girls basketball game I have ever seen in this area. The crowd was electric. Both teams brought massive student sections and helped nearly fill the gym at HVCC. It was great to see that kind of support – and I hope we see more of it on Monday night in the Class AA final at the Times Union Center (6:30).

The Lady Falcons used great overall scoring depth in the 51-47 win. Mylah Chandler led the team with 12 points while Ayana Hunter and Cara Waterson each had 11. Three players in double figures is a good building block to any win.

Bethlehem held a 24-21 lead at the half before Albany outscored the Eagles 19-12 in the third quarter. Bethlehem had a chance to tie the game at 49-49 with under a minute to play, but the attempt was off the mark. Free throws sealed the deal.

It was a great game. Bethlehem’s toughness and desire really impressed me, as did the Giacone sisters. Gabby and Jenna each had 18 points.

Albany is really physical. But not just physical. They are relentless. They want the ball and each player who steps on the floor is willing to do whatever it takes to get it.

Last night was my first look at Hunter, who plays the point guard position for Albany. She’s just a sophomore, and she is the best guard I have personally seen on the girls side in Section II this season.

She’s quick, she has great ballhandling skills, and she can shoot it from the outside. She also has a very calm demeanor. Even as the game went up and down, she was able to keep her composure and facilitate to her teammates.

Albany is going to be a tough matchup for Shen because of their size and physicality, but if Shen can beat Shaker, they can beat anyone.

Game Two: Shen 59, Shaker 52

Shaker beat Shen by 28 points on Jan. 14. Shaker beat Shen by 19 points on Feb. 11. It would be a logical choice to pick another lopsided Shaker victory, but Shen played by far the best game I have seen from this year.

Carly Boland scored 16 and Samira Sangare had 15. The Plainsmen had nine three-pointers while the Bison had just four. They also were 14-19 from the foul line. They got to every loose ball, they dove on the floor, and they rebounded just well enough against the bigger Bison to pull the upset and end Shaker’s perfect season.

Although Boland and Sangare will get a lot of deserved credit, the star of the game was point guard Madison Shea. Shea harassed Shaker ballhandlers all night. She led the offense, she handled ball pressure, and she exhibited the calm demeanor that every coach hopes to have from a senior point guard.

She also added 12 points.

Shen coach Joe Murphy also deserves a lot of credit. He knew his team had nothing to lose and he coached to that. Shen pressed and they pushed the tempo. If they were going to lose, they were going to go down swinging. Turns out they knocked it out of the park.

He also wasn’t afraid to utilize his bench. Junior Amanda Lee was vital to the win. She scored five points, but also was able to help defend the much bigger Bison down low.

Shen and Albany is a mismatch on paper, but then again, so was Shen and Shaker.

That’s what makes the playoffs so great.

Final Thought: Even in the loss, Shaker head coach Emily Caschera-Blowers is another thing that impressed me. Forget the wins and losses. You have to be a good developer of talent and a good in-game coach to go 19-1. That goes without saying. But she is a great motivator and she’s great at interacting with her players. She knows when to force the issue and she knows when to pull back. It’s not easy to manage personalities. She handles it beautifully.

Boys, Game 1: Troy 59, Gloversville 55

Troy squandered a 17-point halftime lead and ended up only winning by four. Gloversville outscored the Flying Horses by 10 in the third quarter and by three in fourth as the comeback attempt fell just short.

Zach Radz scored 23 points for Troy, while Dyaire Holt had 11. Radz had three triples. They are going to need both guards to score big if they want to beat Scotia. They still need to establish a low post presence.

If they can push the tempo and get to Scotia’s bench, it will be closer than people think.

Game 2: Scotia 71, Amsterdam 45

Another day at the office for the No. 1 Class A team in the state. Joe Cremo had 21 points while Dom LeMorta had 18. Scotia also held Kory Bergh to nine points.

If Scotia gets that kind of production on offense and can limit Radz/Holt on defense, Scotia is going to bring home a sectional title.

But, Troy is well tested from a full season in the Big 10. Will that experience overwhelm the Tartans? We’ll find out on Saturday at 7:15 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

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