Cambridge girls advance to state Final Four
Just last weekend, the Indians won their first sectional championship since 2001 and Saturday afternoon, Cambridge did it again.
The Indians topped Section X's Madrid-Waddington 60-36 in their regional final at SUNY Canton to advance to their first state tournament since 1999.
Coming into the game at 25-1, Cambridge will play Millbrook in the state semifinals next Friday at Hudson Valley Community College at 10 a.m.
No current player on the Cambridge team was alive when that 1999 team made their tournament run.
"For the seniors, in 2001, a lot of us were alive, but in 1999 I don't think any of us were alive," said senior center Helen Mooney, who was born in in the fall of 1999. "That's crazy. Just thinking back that it was that long ago and just how exciting it is and seeing the community be supportive has been really amazing. That number is really crazy to me."
After an evenly-matched first quarter where the Indians held just a two-point lead, Cambridge came out and took total control in the second quarter.
For much of that frame, the Indians hadn't given up a point and by the end of the quarter, the Yellowjackets could just muster a 3 and one made free throw. Meanwhile, Cambridge's offense found its rhythm and propelled the Indians to a 17-point halftime lead.
"It was the turning point," said Cambridge coach Tony Bochette of his team's second quarter run. "We didn't know if we could do our normal pressure, since they're very athletic, so we were a little concerned about it. It's been our M.O. all year to create some pressure and create some chaos and easy hoops. It really worked again to our advantage."
Much like they did early in their game against Seton Catholic, once the Indians went into their press defense, it was obvious M-W got flustered and made mistakes. Cambridge capitalized on those turnovers like they have done all season to create easy baskets on the other end of the floor.
"When we started pressuring them, we kept getting steals and that helped us get wide open lay-ups. It changed when we started to press," said Indians guard Lilly Phillips.
Sophie Phillips led the way for Cambridge with a game-high 17 points and added eight rebounds. Mooney had another strong game with 15 points and had nine rebounds. Bridey Nolan had 12 points on four made three-pointers.
A pair of Nolan's 3's came during the Indians' second quarter run and one of them came from well outside the arc. She was glad it went in, dreading what her coach might think of the shot if it didn't.
"When I first shot that, I was like, `Uh-oh, Bochette's going to yell at me,'" Nolan said with a smile.
In games past, Cambridge's offense has came more from an outside-inside approach, where the Phillips twins establish their play from beyond the arc and it opens up space inside.
Bochette stressed how important it was for Cambridge to switch that up Saturday due to the size and length advantage the Indians held compared to M-W. Besides Nolan at 5-foot-2, the rest of Cambridge's starting five is 5-foot-9 or taller. The Indians felt like establishing their play on the inside would open up chances for open jumpers and driving opportunities and allow balance to their offense.
That inside-outside approach was a major factor in Nolan's strong game. With the attention that the Phillips twins and both Helen and Fiona Mooney receive, it allowed her open shots.
"Inside-out opens me up a lot. I'm not much of driver to the lane, so when they work inside-out, they can kick it out and I can hit it," Nolan said. "It also takes pressure off the Mooney's and the (Phillips) twins."
When it came down to it, Yellowjackets coach Byran Harmer knew the daunting task his team faced to compete with Cambridge. He was happy they competed well, but knew there might come a point where the Indians' firepower was just too much.
"As disappointed as I am and the girls are, we can't walk away saying we could or should have done anything differently," Harmer said. "This had nothing to do with things we didn't do. It has everything to do with what Cambridge did do. They do everything so well that we were going to have to do everything perfect to beat them. At the end of the season, when you lose to a better team, there's nothing you can do about it."
M-W ends their season at 19-5.
With his team continuing their dominant run, Bochette feels nothing but excitement for his players.
"I'm so happy for these girls. They're just such a hard-working, great group of girls," Bochette said. "They deserve every moment of this and hopefully they deserve the whole weekend next weekend."
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.