By MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — There was no big speech given to the Shenendehowa girls basketball team before taking on Averill Park Friday, a few days after the Plainsmen suffered their first loss of season in a rivalry matchup with Shaker.
Nope, Shenendehowa head coach Joe Murphy recounted at his team’s Saturday practice, nothing like that was needed for his Plainsmen.
“Listen, this one’s on you guys,” was what Murphy said he told his team before taking on Averill Park in a Suburban Council matchup, meaning the game was of the gut-check variety for his squad.
And, after stomping their way to a 72-50 win against a state-ranked Class A squad, it is safe to say the Plainsmen’s guts are just fine.
“They responded very well, no question about it — and against a very good team,” Murphy said.
“We were all upset about our loss and that motivated us to play better and prove ourselves again,” said Shenendehowa junior forward Morgan O’Brien. “We were all fired up.”
The Plainsmen had started 11-0 on the season before falling in overtime, 52-44, against Shaker a week ago. Shenendehowa was not itself in the contest and, while Shaker had a lot to do with that, the game against Averill Park was a chance for the Plainsmen to reassert themselves as one of the top teams in Section II.
Murphy said there were things to take from the club’s loss to Shaker that will help Shenendehowa when the clubs meet again in February, but acknowledged his team had also cost itself with a bad shooting night and some questionable decisions on the court.
“There were times we played uncharacteristically of ourselves,” he said. “We just didn’t play our regular basketball — but the good thing was that it happened in January.”
In other words, not during the postseason, where the Plainsmen will look to defend the sectional title they captured last season. Sophomore forward Sydney Brown said the club’s loss to Shaker had helped to refocus the Plainsmen ahead of the stretch run of the regular season. The two practices between Shenendehowa’s games against Shaker and Averill Park — both at home — had extra energy to them, she said.
“They were definitely different coming off our first loss,” said Brown. “It definitely motivated us to keep getting better.”
Where the Plainsmen need to get better — at least for when they face Shaker again — is on the defensive glass, as Shaker forward Becky Rossier had 23 points and 18 rebounds against the Plainsmen.
“Boxing out and rebounding, that’s what going to be really important the next time we play them,” said Brown. “They definitely beat us on the boards. We have to get after every loose ball.”
Shenendehowa did that against Averill Park, as the Plainsmen got back to being themselves and forced 22 turnovers in the first half. Carly Boland led the Plainsmen (12-1, 9-1) with 24 points, six steals, and five rebounds in the win; the game put Boland nine points away from 1,000 for her career going into the Plainsmen’s game tonight against Guilderland.
Also for the Plainsmen, Erin Hulbert had 12 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists, while Samira Sangare had 11 points and Brown had eight in the win against Averill Park.
“It was everything I could have asked for and more,” Murphy said of his team’s effort against Averill Park.
O’Brien had four points in the win after scoring six in the club’s loss to Shaker. The reserve forward was a critical player for the Plainsmen in the loss, helping to keep Shenendehowa close with Shaker in the third quarter with some timely baskets down low when she checked in to spell a foul-plagued Sangare.
“[Sangare] is more a shooter, so I know I need to post up when I get in because that’s what I can do,” O’Brien said.