BY JIM SCHILTZ
The Shenendehowa girls’ basketball team had only three players with previous state tournament experience on its roster Saturday for a Class AA regional final against West Genesee in Alex Tudor, Cam Tooley and Megan Gillooley.
For Gillooley, it was a brief stint last year as junior varsity call-up in a 68-25 state semifinal win against Williamsville North.
“I scored my first Shenendehowa basket,” Gillooley said. “It was exciting.”
Gillooley’s contribution was much more significant Saturday and a huge reason why Shenendehowa is going back to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four. The junior played a superb all-around game while making several of its most crucial baskets.
The biggest sequence? That started with five minutes left in the third quarter, when Tudor, the Section II tournament most valuable player, was called for her third foul on a charge and took a seat. Shenendehowa’s lead was 11, but West Genesee was coming on.
“A lot of attention has been on Cam and Alex,” Gillooley said. “I tried to step up. I had to bring my game today.”
Gillooley had a special game Saturday at Onondaga Community College’s Allyn Hall, including a rare 3-point basket right after Tudor’s departure. The junior’s putback hoop a minute later pushed Shenendehowa’s lead to 15 in what would be a 48-31 victory.
That kept alive Gillooley’s chance to join her older brother Mike as a state basketball champion this weekend at Hudson Valley Community College. The Plainsmen
(22-2) meet Long Island representative Baldwin (Section VIII, 19-1) Friday at 6:15 p.m. in one semifinal, while Ossining (Section I, 21-5) and Our Lady of Mercy (Section V, 21-1) play the other at 8 p.m. Saturday’s final is set for 8:45 p.m.
“On the JV last year, she was the leading scorer,” Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy said of Gillooley, whose role with the team continues to expand. “She’s our third offensive weapon behind the two ‘Ts’. She knows when to pick her spots.”
And pick up a teammate. Tudor drew great attention whenever she touched the ball and managed to score 11 points, but none after a layup early in the third quarter. Gillooley produced nine of her 13 points from there on, with her layup and two foul shots part of a game-closing 13-3 run.
“When our scoring leaders have gotten in foul trouble, she’s stepped up,” Murphy said.
Gillooley scored more points only twice this season, topped by 16 in a December win against Niskayuna. She scored 10 when Shenendehowa knocked off Columbia in the sectional semifinals, but four in the title game against Shaker when Tudor and Tooley — an all-tournament team selection — both netted 17.
“Usually on offense, I set screens,” Gillooley said. “On defense, I guard the No. 1 player. I try to get rebounds and box out.”
The 5-foot-9 guard/small forward did all of that and then some Saturday. She scored on a drive that gave Shenenehowa a 12-7 lead to end Saturday’s opening quarter. Her second basket on another drive capped a 7-0 run and gave the Plainsmen a 21-9 advantage in the next.
“It’s always good for us to get a good lead,” Gillooley, who mixed in eight rebounds and two steals with her 13 points, said. “We didn’t always do that.”
West Genesee led only once at 4-2 before Tooley sank a pair of 3-pointers to move the Plainsmen ahead for good. Tooley finished with 20 points, while Gillooley was among the reasons West Genesee never got started.
“She stopped their point guard,” Murphy said of Gillooley’s one-on-one effort against Mackenzie Smith, who had six points. “She did a great job on her.”
Shenendehowa players were quick and effective sliding and collapsing on defense, with Claire Drum and Catherine Almeida doing stellar work down low.
“I was on 15 [Smith], and she’s a great player,” Gillooley said. “If she got by me, my teammates had my back.”
Gillooley had theirs, too.
CLASS AA STATS
Ossining defeated Shenendehowa 69-66 last year to win its fourth straight NYSPHSAA Class AA championship. Shenendehowa graduated eight seniors including all-state first-team pick Carly Boland, and lost another key piece in all-state fourth-team pick Sydney Brown, who transferred to Blair Academy.
In the other regional finals, Ossining beat Elmira 87-80, Our Lady of Mercy beat Clarence 47-40 and Baldwin beat Central Islip 56-31. Baldwin, which lost to Commack in the previous two LI championships, closed its game Saturday with a 21-1 run.
Shenendehowa will make its 11th final four appearance. Shenendehowa has won four state titles, its last in 1999 with multi-Hall of Fame coach Ken Strube.