BY JIM SCHILTZ
TROY — Shenendehowa started the third quarter on a run and was looking for more in Friday night’s state Class AA semifinal basketball game against Baldwin at Hudson Valley Community College.
The Bruins’ response, in the form of pressure defense and 3-point baskets, essentially ended a Plainsmen campaign that no one could have seen coming.
“No one had us here at the beginning of the season,” Shenendehowa junior Cam Tooley said after a 60-46 loss. “To be here is really awesome. If we told people we’d be here in the beginning of the season, no one would have believed us.”
But there the young cast from Clifton Park was, with no seniors on the floor, leading the state’s No. 4 team 28-25 after Megan Gillooley’s third-quarter drive.
“Every time we went on a run, they hit a shot and they played suffocating defense,” Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy said.
In the third quarter and into the fourth, Baldwin (Section VIII, 20-3) was at its best doing those things in a 20-4 spurt when Shenendehowa got all of its points from the line. Aziah Hudson keyed the Bruins offense during the decisive stretch with nine points, including a 3-pointer to start it and another to finish it.
“Obviously it’s disappointing to come this close and lose, but I’m proud of what we accomplished,” Murphy said. “We really jelled the last part of the season and got to the final four.”
Shenendehowa (22-3) lost nine players from last year’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association runner-up edition. The group included eight seniors, led by all-state first-team pick Carly Boland and Sydney Brown, a fourth-team all-state selection who transferred to Blair Academy.
“We had a great season, and next year we’ll try to get back,” Gillooley, a junior, said after scoring a career-high 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field. “We should be even better. Coach said over the summer look at the film of this game as a reminder to keep working hard.”
Gillooley sandwiched two drives around two foul shots by Catherine Almeida to give Shenendehowa its 28-25 advantage before Baldwin found a second gear, and then a third, in all but finishing off a Plainsmen group that was representing the program in its 11th final four.
“They were very solid on all sides of the floor,” Tooley said of the Bruins. “Their defense was insane and they hit shots.”
Kaia Harrison generated eight points, including a 3 when Baldwin closed the third quarter on a 14-4 run. Kayla Brown hit a 3-pointer, and Hudson followed with another as the Bruins lead grew to 45-32 early in the fourth.
“Every time we had an opportunity, we’d turn it over or had a foul called,” Murphy said. “They’re very opportunistic. They can score 10 points in the blink of an eye. We were up three and down by 12. They answered the challenge.”
Shenendehowa struggled against Baldwin’s pressure defense in the second half.
“We prepared all week for their press,” Tooley said. “We haven’t seen anything like that. We had that drought in the second half, and that killed us.”
Alex Tudor nailed a 3-pointer for Shenendehowa with 5:10 left in the game after Baldwin had built its 13-point advantage. That was Shenendehowa’s only 3, while Baldwin collected nine of them, six by Hudson on 10 attempts.
“When I get in a rhythm like that, everything is out of my mind,” said Hudson, a junior.
Hudson finished with 27 points, Harrison totaled 12 and Jenna Annecchiarico had 11, with eight coming after Shenendehowa got within 50-41 on a three-point play by Tooley with 2:19 left.
“They had more shooters than us,” Gillooley said.
Tudor scored 11 points, and Tooley had seven after netting a game-best 20 in last week’s 48-31 regional win against West Genesee.
“In the second half, we just brought the energy,” Hudson said. “We didn’t change anything. We just tried to stop their best players.”
“No one has played us like that,” Gillooley said. “They were right on top of us. They were overly aggressive. Very athletic.”
Harrison was assigned to Tooley.
“She’s a great defender and a great shooter,” Hudson said of Harrison, her junior backcourt mate. “She can do both.”
Hudson’s 15 points helped Baldwin open up a 25-22 halftime lead. Gillooley had 10 of her 18 after the break.
“Megan has been tremendous all year, but in the playoffs she really found her groove,” Murphy said. “She showed up tonight.”
Hudson 8-5-27, Brown 1-0-3, Harrison 5-1-12, Pulis 2-3-7, Annecchiaric 2-6-11. Totals: 18-15-60.
Almeida 0-2-2, Gillooley 8-2-18, Tooley 2-3-7, Drum 1-0-2, Walker 1-1-3, Tudor 5-1-12, Slepski 1-0-2. Totals: 18-9-46.
Baldwin 17 8 14 21 – 60
Shenendehowa 14 8 10 14 – 46
Three-point goals: Hudson 6, Brown, Harrison, Annecchiarico, Tudor.