Seniors savoring last Shenendehowa girls’ basketball weeks together

Senior members of the Shenendehowa girls' basketball team are shown at a Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 practice. In the back row, from left, are Erica Ryan, Morgan O'Brien, Sydney Quinn, and Carly Boland; in the front row, from left, are Samira Sangare, Victoria Pardi, Paris Smith, and Courtney Guiry. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)Senior members of the Shenendehowa girls' basketball team are shown at a Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 practice. In the back row, from left, are Erica Ryan, Morgan O'Brien, Sydney Quinn, and Carly Boland; in the front row, from left, are Samira Sangare, Victoria Pardi, Paris Smith, and Courtney Guiry. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

CLIFTON PARK — Early last week, it hit Joe Murphy.

Sorting through items for the Shenendehowa girls’ basketball team’s Feb. 5 Senior Night against Niskayuna, the fourth-year head coach started to lament the players he’ll lose when this season closes.

“I just can’t believe these guys are finally graduating,” he said. “They’ve been with me for so long.”

Since Murphy took over the Plainsmen prior to the 2012-13 season, his program has largely been built around this year’s eight-deep senior class. Carly Boland and Samira Sangare have been around since the start of that first season; Morgan O’Brien, Victoria Pardi, Sydney Quinn, and Paris Smith joined at the start of the next season; and, Courtney Guiry and Erica Ryan were around by the time Shenendehowa’s march to a Section II Class AA title began in the 2013-14 postseason.

Carly Boland of Shenendehowa takes a shot in front of Vianah Smith of Shaker at the Section II AA Semifinals at HVCC Thursday, March 5, 2015. (PETER R. BARBER/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)

Carly Boland of Shenendehowa takes a shot in front of Vianah Smith of Shaker at the Section II AA Semifinals at HVCC Thursday, March 5, 2015. (PETER R. BARBER/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)

“They were all there,” Murphy said.

They’re all here this season, too, as Shenendehowa — ranked as high as No. 3 in the state this year with a 15-2 record through Feb. 1 — appears likely to collect to a Suburban Council title and assume the position as favorite in this year’s sectionals. But what Murphy most likes about the first group he’s taken from its freshman to senior seasons has little to do with its on-court production.

“People comment to me on how well the play together, but they all get along together off the court, too,” Murphy said. “They’re a great group of kids — who play basketball.”

Through Feb. 1, members from this season’s Shenendehowa senior class have been a part of 66 victories. Since all eight hit the varsity level, they’ve lost five total games — one of which was a regional final, while another was a sectional title game.

“They just keep getting better and better,” Murphy said. “It’s been really fun for me to see them grow, to watch them change.”

Boland, the team’s top star, said the best part about that success has been experiencing it with girls she’s played with for so long.

“We’re very happy with who we did it with,” Boland said. “We’ve won all these games with our best friends.”

“We’ve been together since, like, second grade,” O’Brien said.

Shenendehowa's Samira Sangare, left, drives against Bethlehem's Molly Kirby during a girls' basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

Shenendehowa’s Samira Sangare, left, drives against Bethlehem’s Molly Kirby during a girls’ basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015 in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

Shenendehowa lost its first games of the season Jan. 30-31 while in the Bronx for a hoops showcase. While those losses took away the Plainsmen’s undefeated season, this group of is used to using its rare defeats as fuel to come back stronger. That’s been the case throughout the 2015-16 season, O’Brien said, which has been aimed toward the singular focus of winning an area title after last year’s championship-game loss.

“We learned a lot from that,” she said. “It was a good experience and we grew from it. We’re worker harder now and we know what our end goal is for this year.”

About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.