Dominant first half advances Cambridge to next round

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CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. — A pair of early baskets from Canajoharie junior Monica Hartlieb and lead in the first minute gave the Cougars some hope that they could hang with the heavily-favored, No. 1 seed Cambridge girls basketball team Saturday in a Class C Round of 16 sectional game.

That hope was quickly drained though as the Indians absolutely dominated from that point forward, en route to a 66-30 win to advance to the sectional quarterfinals.

After Canajoharie jumped out to a 5-2 lead, Cambridge locked in defensively and went to the strategy that has worked wonders for them throughout their season.

The Indians went into full-court defense and caused deflections and havoc all over the court. Cambridge turned that chaos into a ton of turnovers and it used that to fuel its offense on the other end.

After a 6-0 run by the Indians, the Cougars took a timeout. Within another minute and a half, that run had ballooned to 16.

Cambridge can turn a game on a dime with its relentless defense and Canajoharie found that out in a big way Saturday night.

"Our offense is generated from our defense and that's how it's going to work," said Indians coach Bob Phillips. "If we can create that type of pressure and create havoc, that's what we want. That leads to some easy baskets. It leads to [Canajoharie] having to think what they need to do. It can be bothersome."

The Indians didn't allow another Cougar point in the first quarter and only allowed a pair of field goals in the second.

Cambridge guards Lilly Phillips and Sophie Phillips were the main catalysts behind the Indians' dominance throughout the first half. On many occasions, they were the ones forcing the Canajoharie miscues. Both guards used their speed to get out on the break and finish around the hoop.

Lilly Phillips was dominant in the first half, racking up 24 points in the half alone, before adding a 3 in limited playing time in the second half, to put her at 27 points on the night.

Sophie Phillips had 18 first half points and had four after the break.

While the Cougars tried to play pressure defense on the Indians early on, Cambridge was relentless in its resolve to get to the hoop to create easy baskets.

"They were trying to pressure us. When a team attacks us, we feel like we can keep attacking them," Bob Phillips said. "It can expose a team that may be a little weaker."

Despite being down 39 points at halftime, Canajoharie had an inspired second-half effort, outscoring the Indians 20-17 after the break.

With an insurmountable lead, Bob Phillips had a chance to play all of his available players, with most finding their way into the scorebook.

Despite all the positives, Cambridge struggled mightily from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, shooting just 1-for-10 at the charity stripe.

With a huge lead late in the game, Bob Phillips thought those late struggles at the line might have come down to a slight lac of concentration.

But as the games get more competitive, the Indians know they'll have to be better in those spots.

"We shot 14-of-16 against Tamarac and that's big. That's what wins you games," Bob Phillips said.

Cambridge improves to 18-1 with Saturday's win. The Indians will play No. 8 Greenwich, 51-32 winners over No. 9 Duanesburg, in the sectional quarterfinals Wednesday at home.

Cambridge beat the Witches 60-33 earlier in the season. The Indians held Greenwich's Molly Brophy, one of the top scorers in Section II, to 10 points in that game.

Tip is set for 7:30 in Cambridge Wednesday night.

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


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