High-octane Cambridge roars into state final
TROY, N.Y. — When you get to the last four teams standing, it's almost expected that the games will be close, one play here or there that makes a difference of who wins and moves on and who loses.
Not in his wildest dreams did Cambridge girls basketball coach Bob Phillips think that the Class C state semifinal would go like it did on Friday afternoon at Hudson Valley Community College.
The Indians scored the first eight points, led by 18 after one quarter and cruised to a 75-43 victory over Section VI's Maple Grove to advance to Saturday's championship game.
"You don't expect that type of game this late in the season," Phillips said. "Not in the state Final Four certainly, but you enjoy it when it comes."
Cambridge will face Section IV's Watkins Glen, a winner over Section IX's Millbrook in the first semifinal, on Saturday at 7 p.m. with the state championship on the line. It's the second appearance in the title game for the Indians, who went to the final in 1992. Watkins Glen won the Class C title in 2017.
Lilly Phillips led Cambridge with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while twin sister Sophie racked up 21 points, including five 3-pointers.
"To get ahead right away was big," Lilly Phillips said. "I think they knew we were a good shooting team, but to show that to them and get ahead, it made a big difference."
In her first game back in a month and a half, Fiona Mooney was a force on the block with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
"Fiona's been sitting for five and a half weeks and she's been at practice every day, riding the bike, doing left-handed drills, dribbling the ball," Phillips said. "She brought a new energy to practice when she [was cleared to play on Monday]. You could feel it. We had a phenomenal week of practice with her. She's been cooped up and caged, and it made a difference in how we played."
The Indians put the foot on the gas from the tip, scoring the first eight points as Maple Grove coach Bill Price took a timeout to regroup.
A basket from junior Bre Hill (the team's leading scorer on the afternoon with 10 points), but Cambridge kept up the pressure and got some turnovers and easy baskets in transition. A 12-2 Indians run followed, and after Lilly Phillips scored off a steal to make it 20-4 with 3:38 left in the opening quarter, most of the Red Dragons bench seemed to be stunned.
"We've done that to some teams in our league, but you don't know how a team you've never seen is going to react to it," Bob Phillips said. "We told them to keep the pedal down and don't let up. They are a good team and they've had a good season, we didn't let it get extended."
Maple Grove got a little more in rhythm in the second quarter, but for every hoop, Cambridge matched. Stasia Epler hit a 3-pointer with three minutes remaining in the half to extend the lead to 21 and Cambridge went into the break ahead by 22 at 49-27.
In the first half, the Indians shot 8-of-11 from beyond the arc and one of those misses was a last-second heave from half-court.
"We're a good shooting team, we have multiple people that can shoot the three," Bob Phillips said. "When they're all shooting well, it's hard to defend us."
The Red Dragons came out quickly in the third, scoring seven in a row after Cambridge started the quarter with a basket. A three-pointer by Marissa Schuppenhauer cut the Cambridge lead to 51-34 with 4:58 left in the third and Price took a timeout.
"The first couple minutes of each half is certainly important," Bob Phillips said. "We had no let-ups. We knew they would make a run, they drove six hours to get here, they aren't going to want to go home. That's motivation enough, as far as I'm concerned. Don't let them think they have a chance of coming back in it. We had a gameplan and they stuck to it."
But any thoughts of a comeback were squashed as Cambridge scored the next 15 points in a row, with Lilly Phillips, Sophie Phillips and Mooney doing all the damage.
"Sitting out those seven games, we still did it, but it was frustrating sitting on the sideline," Mooney said. "So I was extra motivated for tonight. I wasn't sure how it was going to be, but I felt I got right back into it."
Both teams emptied their benches in the fourth, giving everyone on both sides a chance to play in the state semifinal.
Now the focus immediately goes to the Senecas for a chance to bring home the hardware back to Washington County.
"Our community gives us great support," Bob Phillips said. "They support everything, academics, clubs, activities and certainly sports. It's always been the case. It'll be really special for these kids to do it here in Section II, and it'll be the only other state championship at Cambridge other than football. It's exciting and that's what we're hoping to do."
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