Return trip: Cambridge wins second straight regional
For every stop the Vikings made, the Indians made two.
Whenever it looked like Moriah would go on a run, Cambridge was right there to go on a longer one of its own and the Indians rode that edge to a 60-47 win in the Class C regional championship game Saturday afternoon at Beekmantown High School.
The win moves Cambridge into its second consecutive state semifinal, where they will play Section VI's Maple Grove Friday afternoon at 3:15 p.m at Hudson Valley Community College.
With a younger team in tow for this year's run, making it back to HVCC is a proud accomplishment for the Indians.
"It's been great. We've worked so hard, especially since Fiona [Mooney] got injured," said Cambridge sophomore Lilly Phillips. "To accomplish that feat, it's amazing."
"It really shows what these girls are made of and it shows their grit and determination," said Indians coach Bob Phillips. "It shows their talent and their dedication to the team. They're a tough group. They don't let things bother them. It means a lot."
Cambridge is at its best when it can jump out quickly on its opponent. Using their defensive length and swarming pressure, the Indians love to cause chaos and turnovers for their opponent. Against Madrid-Waddington, the blast came in the second quarter, but against Moriah, it happened right away.
The Indians caused many Moriah turnovers and executed on the offensive end to aid the cause. Cambridge jumped out to a 12-0 lead more than halfway through the first and put the Vikings immediately on the comeback trail.
"You're setting the tempo of the game and dictating play when you do that," Bob Phillips said. "We like to do that and especially against [Moriah]. [Moriah] is a good, solid team that has a lot of seasoned veterans. It's big against a team like this to get out to that lead."
The Vikings finished the first strong, going on a 6-2 run to end the frame, but that early deficit really decided the game.
"The kids were just nervous [to start]," said Moriah coach Stephan Pelkey. "We're full of fighters and I'm proud of how my girls played. That run in the first quarter was the ballgame. Otherwise, in my opinion, we're just as good as they are."
The Indians headed into halftime with a nine-point lead and came out focused in the second half.
Lilly Phillips stepped up in a big way for Cambridge in the third, scoring the first 10 points for the Indians, as they went on 10-2 run to start the quarter.
"I knew I needed to shoot the ball a little bit more," Lilly Phillips said. "[Noel Williams] was a great player and I knew she was guarding me. I had been playing in the post for a while, so I knew I needed to get her in foul trouble because I'm a lot taller than her. I knew we had to get it going."
Lilly Phillips scored a game-high 22 points, while her twin sister Sophie Phillips had 18 points. Stasia Epler added 11 points, including a trio of 3's.
While Cambridge continued to create distance with its lead, the Vikings were quick to strike back and narrow the deficit, especially in the fourth quarter.
The main catalyst in those late spurts was senior McKenzie Sprague, who scored 14 of her team-high 19 points in the second half. Sprague essentially took Moriah's hopes on her back and was relentless at attacking the hoop. Creating contact in the paint, she got to the line 10 times in the second half, going 8-for-10 from the charity stripe.
Coming into the regional contest, the Indians knew they would have their hands full with Sprague and fellow senior Madison Olcott, who finished with 11 points. Both girls are 1,000-point scorers and can take over a game on a whim.
"We wanted to defend the way we always defend and try to make sure they don't get any easy attempts, both from jump shots or driving to the basket," Bob Phillips said. "It's a pretty tough go against them. They are two really good players. I think they were better than advertised. We knew we would have to expend all the energy that we could."
Moriah cut the lead down to as low as seven points with just more than a minute and a half to play. Cambridge locked in from there though and didn't allow anything the rest of the way.
McKayla McLenithan took a nice charge from Sprague and the Indians scored the next six points to ice the game.
Cambridge was eliminated by Millbrook in the Class C semifinals last winter, so the Indians will look to get over that semifinal hump Friday.
The winner of Friday's Cambridge-Maple Grove game will advance to the state championship Saturday night at HVCC.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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