Cambridge wins sectional championship in OT thriller

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TROY, N.Y. — With time running low in regulation and the game tied in the Class C Section II championship game between the Cambridge girls basketball team and Mekeel Christian Academy, the Indians lobbed the ball into the person's hands they always trust with the ball, Sophie Phillips.

With Mekeel defenders flanking her, Phillips went up for a contested lay-up and the ball bounced out.

When Phillips had another chance for the game-winner in overtime, there was no way she was going to squander that opportunity. The freshman put the ball in the basket to take a lead and a pair of free throws would ice the game, as Cambridge went on to top the Lions 62-59 at Hudson Valley Community College to win the sectional championship.

The win was Cambridge's first sectional title since 2001.

"It's incredible. It was something the girls put as a goal starting day one," said Indians coach Tony Bochette. "They came out and they achieved it tonight. As long as we keep playing, the sky is the limit for us."

The first quarter was back and forth, but in the second frame Mekeel took the momentum into its favor. The Lions outscored Cambridge 18-11 in the quarter. A big reason for that was their ability to stretch the defense with their three-point shot. Mekeel knocked down six 3's in the first half.

Their shooting success allowed some openings to drive inside, which they took advantage of as well.

"They were driving to the basket very hard, so it made it hard for us to play defense," Sophie Phillips said.

Being down heading into the half is something the Indians aren't too familiar with. They experienced it Tuesday against Hoosick Falls, but throughout its run, Cambridge has normally been in control of most games. The Indians knew they had to fight back to keep their season alive.

Quickly, Cambridge would get back into the game and get the Lions lead down to three heading into the fourth.

Mekeel coach Guy DeAngelis preached how important the the first few minutes of the second half would be, but the Indians took advantage during that stretch.

"They came out with more energy than we did at that point," DeAngelis said. "I told the girls in the locker room, that those four minutes at the start of the third quarter are so crucial. We need to go up 15 or let them cut it to single digits. They cut it to single digits and then it was a game."

A big catalyst in the second half was the play of the Phillips sisters. In the first half, Sophie Phillips was held to six points and sat much of the second quarter due to foul trouble. Lilly Phillips had just two points at the break.

The twins combined for 12 of Cambridge's 18 points in the third and were major forces down the stretch.

Sophie Phillips led the way with a game-high 19 points, while Lilly Phillips scored 11 on the night.

Sophie Phillips was named the Class C Section II Most Valuable Player after the game.

"Sometimes you've got inexperience and you're worried about that, but they showed they were much more mature than freshmen today," said Bochette. "The group of freshmen are wise beyond their years."

Senior Helen Mooney continued her strong playoff play, as she notched 14 points, with 10 coming in the second half. Mooney was named as a Class C All-Star following the game

Grace Snyder had a nice day as well with nine points.

Rebekkah Dean led the Lions with 17 points on the night. Dean went down with ankle injury five seconds in the overtime period and did not return.

Bochette noted how his team has continued to play and support each other throughout the season and that showed in crucial moments Saturday night. After Sophie Phillips had missed the game-winner in regulation, the seniors were quick to speak up and let her know that they'll get it done in overtime, which they did.

The Indians will move on to play Section VII champion Seton Catholic of Plattsburgh in a regional semifinal game Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Saratoga Springs High School.

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtonbanner.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.


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