Supporting cast a strength for Indians
BEEKMANTOWN, N.Y. — From the outset, it looked like the Class C girls basketball regional championship between Cambridge and Section VII champ Moriah would be a 2-on-2 battle.
For the Indians, the twin sisters and sophomores Lilly and Sophie Phillips. Leading the way for the Vikings were a pair of 1,000-point scorers in seniors Madison Olcott and McKenzie Sprague.
With that back-and-forth, it was up to the rest of the team, the supporting cast, to contribute as much as they could to secure a second-straight regional crown.
They did it with aplomb, not nervous at all with the task ahead.
Stasia Epler was the leading scorer of the group with 11 points, including three huge three-pointers. Mikayla McLenithan added seven, including a couple timely baskets in the second half. Ruth Nolan scored two, forced to sit out big chunks of the game in foul trouble.
"It's great to help out when [Lilly and Sophie] are guarded so tight, we were able to step up as a team and come together," Epler said.
There were a lot of contributions on the boards and at the defensive end, forcing Moriah to make decisions quickly and getting them out of rhythm on offense.
McLenithan and Brecke Gifford — with the absence of Fiona Mooney — both had big games, Gifford grabbing a handful of rebounds and altering shots from the shorter Moriah forwards.
Rhiannon Darling, Abby Maher and Jaylyn Prouty all worked in the rotation for Cambridge coach Bob Phillips.
"We were working as a unit on defense, helping each other out and getting a lot of deflections," Epler said.
It all added up to a 60-47 win for Cambridge at Beekmantown High School on Saturday, to advance to the Class C state Final Four and a date with Section VI's Maple Grove on Friday at Hudson Valley Community College.
"They were all huge for us, between knocking down some great shots for Stasia and Ruthie and Brecke and McKayla doing a great job defensively and on the boards," Phillips said. "They helped keep possessions alive for us with some offensive boards and those things are shot clock extenders."
Defensively, Gifford was in the middle of the zone, making it tough for Moriah to get into the paint.
Late in the game, McLenithan took a charge that changed the game. At the time, Moriah was trying to come back and it changed the momentum.
"Her taking that charge was huge," Phillips said. "She has about 10 or 12 of those this year. She tried to do it earlier in the game and it didn't work out. That play allows us to get the ball back."
The only two seniors are role players in Darling and Gifford. Phillips said that despite not playing as much, they understand their roles for the Indians.
"They didn't play as much last year as juniors, but now as seniors, they've put in the time and effort every day in practice and they deserve this," Phillips said. "They've worked hard. They've seen it's a talented team and that everyone has a role, whether it's scoring, playing defense or rebounding. If we work as a unit, it doesn't matter who does what."
The Indians will need all 10 players on its roster to come to play this weekend if they want to bring home the first state championship in girls basketball in Cambridge history.
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