Cambridge confident in pressure situations
CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. — Big games don't scare the Cambridge girls basketball team.
Crucial moments don't faze the Indians one bit.
Cambridge has been here before and they are ready for the challenge ahead.
The Indians are set to make their second consecutive Class C semifinal trip Friday when they take on Section VI's Maple Grove with a ticket to the state championship game on the line.
The semifinal tip-off is set for 3:15 p.m. Friday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. The victor advances to play the winner of the other semifinal, between defending-champion Millbrook and Watkins Glen, Saturday night at HVCC.
Cambridge and the Blazers both made the state semifinals last winter, playing each other. Watkins Glen won the state title two years ago and they have a few holdovers from the championship roster. When it comes to this stage in the season, everyone is similar.
"That experience can't do anything but help us," said first-year Indians coach Bob Phillips, who was an assistant on last year's squad led by Tony Bochette. "We've been there and played there before in that same game. We felt what it was like to lose that game and the kids that played in that game really want to win it this time around."
Experiencing what this weekend's game entails and the level of play it requires from its participants is something Cambridge can draw upon.
"We know what the atmosphere is going to be like and what it takes to win the game too," said sophomore guard Sophie Phillips, who leads Cambridge in scoring this winter.
This isn't to say that all the Indians' players have been in this type of situation before. Last year's squad that bowed out in the semifinals to the Blazers had five seniors, all of which that played solid minutes for the Indians.
Of their current roster, only three were starters last year, and while seniors Rhiannon Darling and Brecke Gifford, junior Abby Maher and sophomore Ruthie Nolan were all on the roster for that playoff run, none of them saw significant minutes.
With a team filled with a majority of sophomores and freshmen, there still may be an adjustment playing on that stage.
"We're very young, so we have first-year players that haven't made it this far," Sophie Phillips said. "It's going to be experience that will be the same for us as any other team."
While Cambridge may be young, the basketball IQ of the group far eclipses the age of its players. Many of the Indians' players participate in summer leagues and AAU programs, so the amount of basketball played between the players is plentiful.
With the amount that each player plays the game, Cambridge rarely seems to be in a situation its players can't handle.
There was Ruthie Nolan hitting a big 3 to put the Indians in the lead over Hoosick Falls in the sectional final. Sophie Phillips had dazzling effort against Madrid-Waddington in regionals with a 13-point second quarter. Lilly Phillips created separation for Cambridge by herself in the third quarter against Moriah — just a few of the critical spots Cambridge players stepped up.
The Indians players never seem to get fazed and that figures to be a major factor Friday.
"They've played a lot of basketball for different teams and programs and coaches," Bob Phillips said. "That gives them some confidence to be able to play whomever, wherever and whenever. They've shown that throughout the year."
Each player has gained critical basketball knowledge throughout their stops playing the sport. Bringing that experience together, makes the Indians a dangerous team to deal with this weekend.
"Our team has played so much basketball this year, over the summer and playing with different teams," said Sophie Phillips, who also plays for the NY Havoc AAU team along with her sister Lilly. "It gives everyone the ability to play with different people and coaches. We're all playing the same game, but bringing together a bunch of different atmospheres from where we've played. It's great that we're coming together with that experience."
Adam Aucoin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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