Top two seeds advance to girls’ Class AA final

Columbia's Grace Heeps, left, and Shenendehowa's Alexandra Tudor jostle for position under the basket Monday.
Michael Kelly/Gazette SportswriterColumbia's Grace Heeps, left, and Shenendehowa's Alexandra Tudor jostle for position under the basket Monday. Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter

Gazette Sportswriter

GUILDERLAND — Throughout Monday night’s Section II Class AA girls’ basketball semifinals, the court never lacked for talented players.
Whether it was during Shenendehowa’s 55-36 win against Columbia or Shaker’s 59-47 victory against Saratoga Springs, future college players were always heavily involved.
“The last couple years, we’ve been really, really spoiled,” Shenendehowa head coach Joe Murphy said. “We went for a long time without having some premier talent in the area, and [Monday night] you have at least three or four Division I kids on the court during our game, multiple Division II kids.”
That was the same during the second semifinal, when Saratoga Springs freshman Dolly Cairns poured in 23 points during a losing effort. Shaker held on for the win despite senior CeCe Mayo — who will play her college basketball at Army — fouling out with 4:29 to go. Shaker head coach Ron Beaudoin praised his team for its strong play without Mayo down the stretch, listing several reasons why his team was able to advance to its first final since winning one in 2011.
The biggest one?
“Shyla stepped up,” he said, referring to talented junior Shyla Sanford, a Shaker player who has Division I interest and scored 11 of her team-high 18 points after Mayo fouled out.
Mayo ended up scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the win, while sophomore teammate Maddy Malicki scored 17 points as Shaker (No. 1, 20-2) did enough to get past Saratoga Springs (No. 4, 14-7) at Guilderland High School.
While Cairns scored 23 points, her backcourt partner Kerry Flaherty — one of the area’s top sophomores — struggled against a tough Shaker defense that made slowing her a focus. Flaherty finished with five points.
While Beaudoin said he was “ecstatic” his team was headed to this year’s championship game, he was less than enthused about having to coach against Cairns and Flaherty in the future.

“Those two guards are just — I don’t really wanna coach against them the next [few] years,” he said. “They’re just ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, perhaps the area’s top player in Columbia senior Selena Lott — a Marquette commit — scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds in her last high school game. Shenendehowa (No. 2, 20-2) never trailed Columbia (No. 3, 18-4) in advancing to its fourth consecutive title game.
The Plainsmen used junior Alexandra Tudor to face-guard Columbia sophomore Grace Heeps for much of the contest. The chance to go up against another top player, Tudor said, motivated her in Monday’s game.
“It definitely makes it more fun,” said Tudor, who helped limit Heeps to three points. “You know the games are going to be competitive and close, and if you get the win, you know it was a hard-earned win.”
Tudor scored 13 of her 17 points in the first half, while classmate Cam Tooley scored a dozen of her 17 after halftime. Production like that from his stars, Murphy said, is what he’s come to expect.
“Alex had a great first half, Cam took over in the second,” he said. “When the two of them play together well, we’re tough to beat.”
Most of Shenendehowa’s team stuck around to watch the second semifinal. Tudor said one of her two favorite area players to watch was in that game, while the other had just finished playing against her.
“It’s Selena [Lott] and Dolly [Cairns],” Tudor said. “Dolly is crazy, amazing — and she’s so young. Selena, she just does her job and gets her points. It’s hard to stay in front of her. She’s just a great player.”
Shenendehowa, the defending champion, and Shaker will play for this year’s title 6 p.m. Saturday at Glens Falls Civic Center. Between the teams in that game, there should be enough future college players to create a full lineup.
“It’s a great time for girls’ basketball in Section II right now,” Murphy said.

VanVorst 2-1-5, Zeyak 1-0-2, L. Obermayer 6-0-13, Heeps 1-0-3, Lott 5-2-13. Totals: 15-3-36.
Almeida 2-0-4, Gillooley 2-6-10, Watrobski 1-0-3, Tooley 6-1-17, Tudor 7-3-17, Slepski 1-2-4. Totals: 19-12-55.
Columbia    6 12 16  2 — 38
Shenendehowa    14 14 10 17 — 55
Three-point goals: L. Obermayer, Heeps, Lott, Watrobski, Tooley 4.

Vamvalis 2-0-5, Cairns 8-3-23, Flaherty 1-3-5, Barringer 4-4-12, Patnode 1-0-2. Totals: 16-10-47.
Malicki 7-1-17, J. Debeatham 2-0-4, Mayo 4-4-12, Sanford 5-7-18, L. Debeatham 3-2-8. Totals: 21-14-59.
Saratoga    11 12 11 13 — 47
Shaker    17 11 11 20 — 59
Three-point goals: Vamvalis, Cairns 4, Malicki 2, Sanford.