BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Head coach Joe Murphy is sure of two things: His Shenendehowa girls’ basketball team is both deep and versatile.
Each of those qualities will be necessary early on this season, which begins Dec. 1 at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
While Shenendehowa has its core players back and healthy from last year’s Section II Class AA runner-up finish — senior guard Carly Boland, junior forward Sydney Brown and senior forward Samira Sangare — the Plainsmen’s preseason has stumbled along with injuries and player absences. At times, Shenendehowa has had to call up athletes from its junior varsity squad to have enough healthy bodies to scrimmage as players such as senior guards Courtney Guiry and Paris Smith — plus senior forward Sydney Quinn — have missed time this preseason with injuries.
“I don’t think we’ve had a healthy year yet,” said Murphy, who is starting his fourth season as the Plainsmen’s coach.
Adding to the injuries, the team could not make its roster official until approximately a week before season’s start, as some varsity candidates were competing in the state championships for cross country and volleyball.
Still, the Plainsmen’s on-court leader said the team has not spent time this preseason feeling bad for itself.
“This just motivates us more,” Boland said. “We know we don’t have some of our best defenders, our quickest people, but we’re going to do our best to succeed with what we have.”
Murphy said it is likely he will not have his full roster at his disposal until January. While his club has enough leftover firepower to post a winning record through December, the potential of the full complement of players is what has him most excited for the 2015-16 campaign.
“We’re going to go 10, 11 deep every single game; I think people are going to be surprised with how good our bench is this year,” said Murphy, who has had three seniors — Boland, forward Morgan O’Brien, and Sangare — commit to playing college basketball. “We can do a lot of different things. We can play our 1-3-1 [zone defense] or man-to-man if we have to; we can run; and we can grind it out and play defense.”
The squad does not lack for motivation, either. Last year’s upset loss to Bethlehem in the Section II Class AA championship game still sticks with the Plainsmen, serving as fuel for their workouts.
“It’s always in the backs of our minds,” Brown said. “We want to play every game like it’s our last.”
Shenendehowa gets its first chance at a rematch with Bethlehem early in the season, as the Plainsmen will play host Dec. 15 to their rival.
Murphy’s squad likely will not be at full strength for that game, but it is not looking for excuses during the season’s first weeks. Boland said her team is excited for when its roster reinforcements will get healthy, but added that the Plainsmen plan on churning out wins regardless of who is on the floor for them.
“We’ll be ready to go without them,” she said.