Cambridge girls, Hoosick boys play for Wasaren titles

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CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. — The Wasaren League is a gauntlet with game after game producing a tough challenge for all involved.

The girls side saw a ton of high-level teams, such as Hoosic Valley, Mechanicville, Hoosick Falls and Greenwich, but for the second year in a row two teams stood out above the rest, Cambridge and Tamarac.

For the second straight season, this Monday, the Indians and Bengals will battle to see who gets to lay claim to being Wasaren League champions.

Last winter, Tamarac played spoiler to Cambridge's undefeated season and went on to pick up a 61-51 comeback victory at Skidmore College, behind a dominant 29-point performance from Emily Erickson.

"For us, it's about playing our best game and to handle things on our end," said first-year coach Bob Phillips of Monday's matchup. "I think the girls are confident. It's a nice little rivalry. We've been steadily competing with them over the last few years and it's kind of fun."

The Indians come in to Monday's matchup with a 16-1 record, while the Bengals are 14-3.

Cambridge held off Tamarac earlier in the year, 49-44.

The Indians are led by sophomore twin guards Sophie and Lilly Phillips, who only continued to improve on their breakout 2017-18 freshman campaign. Sophie Phillips averages 16.2 points per game, while Lilly Phillips averages 14.7 points per game.

Cambridge will go into battle without one of its post stalwarts in Fiona Mooney. Mooney fractured her wrist in the Indians' win against Stillwater and is expected to be out about a month.

With Mooney out of action, the Indians will rely upon sophomore McKayla McLenithan and senior Brecke Gifford to fill the hole. McLenithan has come into her own late in the season and she had her best outing against Berlin, when she had 13 points.

"We're going to need more quality minutes from both McKayla and Brecke. We'll need them to provide good defense and provide offense when they can," Phillip said. "They'll have to step up their game and so will the other kids that are a part of our rotation. I think all of them are well aware of that."

Mooney will have a check up on her wrist during the middle of the month and the team will know more then about her availability come sectionals at that time.

Other girls expected to play a crucial role include freshman Stasia Epler and sophomore Ruth Nolan. Epler is the Indians' fourth-leading scorer, behind the Phillips twins and Mooney.

The Indians will have to contend with a Tamarac team that looks just as strong as the one they ran into in last year's final.

Erickson has a had a big senior campaign, averaging 20.7 points per game, while running the point for the Bengals. Sophomore Syrita Faraj, a 5-foot-8 wing, is averaging 12.5 points per game for Tamarac and has played some of her best basketball of the season late in the year.

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Both Erickson and Faraj thrive at getting to the basket and creating contact, along with finding open looks. Cambridge will look to play to its own strengths and slow down its opponents' to gain the advantage.

"You have to concentrate big time on them, but know there are three other kids that you need to pay attention to," Phillips said. "We'll play to our strengths by playing tough man-to-man and pressuring the ball and not letting them get open looks or drives to the basket. That's what [Emily and Syrita] are good at. We're going to do our best to take away the things they're good at."

Jordyn Sorel, Kylie Galipeau, Lizzie and Kate Machnick are all capable threats as well.

Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m. tonight at Mechanicville High School.

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The Hoosick Falls boys basketball team come into Monday's championship against Waterford, set for 6 p.m. tonight at Mechanicville, as prohibitive favorites against the top team in the Hudson Division.

The Panthers are unbeaten in league play and only have one loss overall, a 55-30 defeat to Lake George a couple weeks back.

In fact, Hoosick Falls has won a record 53 Wasaren League games in a row.

But the Panthers have a bit of an unknown coming into tonight's matchup. Tristan Williams, the second-leading scorer at nearly 18 points a game, was injured against Greenwich and his status is up in the air.

The Panthers are led offensively by junior Jon Kempf, who became the fourth boys basketball player in Hoosick Falls history to reach 1,000 points last week against Greenwich. Kempf averages better than 20.6 points a game, but there's a handful of other options to score the basketball.

Max Kipp is averaging more than nine points a game, with Dmitri Rose around five points a night.

Isiah Burnett and Brennan Andrew have also had double-digit games this year as well.

Where the Panthers excel the most is on defense. This season, Hoosick is allowing less than 44 points a game, with a high of 55 three times, against Bishop Maginn, Mechanicville and Lake George.

Against Waterford already this season, Hoosick Falls pulled out an eight-point run, 54-46, as four players — Kempf, Williams, Rose and Kipp all scored at least 10 points.

The Fordians are led by Bobby Valigorski, who is averaging almost 18 points per game this season. But four others have scored more than 100 points — Michael Talavera, T.J. Kelley, Mike Castracani and Evan Fairclough, so they have a balance to the attack.

Postseason seedings come out this week as well.


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