The Saratoga Sparks Girls AAU Basketball Program is extremely proud of the wonderful young women who have participated in our program over the years. We plan to keep in touch with former Sparks players and follow their success as they attend college and beyond. If you have information that will improve our Alumni page please contact the webmaster. Please see our Alumni page for past years.
Class of 2018
Erin Fouracre, Colonie High School *1,000 point Milestone 1st Team All Star
Julianna Okoniewski, Bethlehem High School 2nd Team All Star
Giuliana Pritchard, Amsterdam High School *1,000 point Milestone 1st Team All Star
Harmony Philo, Gloversville High School *1,000 point Milestone 1st Team All Star
Kerri Hauser, Gloversville High School 3rd Team All Star
Molly Kirby, Bethlehem High School 3rd Team All Star
Lauren Hill, Coblesville-Richmondville High School
Earlashia Ricketts, Colonie High School
Briann Barringer. Saratoga Springs High School 5th Team All Star
Allie Pacatte, Cobleskill-Richmondville High School 3rd Team All Star
Jasmine Gonzalez, Gloversville High School
Kara Vamvalis, Saratoga Springs High School 5th Team All Star
Class of 2017
Julianna Taylor, Fonda High School, SUNY Brockport
Kara Vamvalis, Saratoga Springs High School
Emily Wander, Bethlehem High School, Middlebury College
Kerri Hauser, Gloversville High School
Jordan Hipwell, Ballston Spa High School, Suffolk University
Caitlin Estes, Scotia High School
Briann Barringer, Saratoga High School
Olivia Baumann, Guilderland High School, St. John Fisher
Cassie was a standout at Scotia HS playing Varsity for 5 seasons. As a 3 year Spark, her teams finished in the top ten at nationals 3 straight years. Cassie is a starter and team leader at BYU in Utah.
Five-year varsity starter in basketball
2013 Tartan of the Year
2013 Spirit Award
Team won Foothills Council championship three straight years
Four-time NBC Newschannel 13 All-Star
Two-time Section II, Class A First Team
Four-time leading scorer in Foothills Council
Three-time Foothills Council Team MVP
Five-time Foothills Council First Team
Three-time First Team Large School Times Union All Area
Three-time First Team All Area Daily Gazette
2013 First Team All State
Two-time Second Team all State (2010, 2012)
2011 Third Team All State
2013 Scholar Athlete Award for Section II
2013 Business Award
2013 Philip Hill Memorial Scholarship for accounting
2013 Outstanding Student Leadership Award for academics, Board of Education
All-time career leader at high school in points: 1460; rebounds: 501, assists: 268; steals: 330
Played for the Saratoga Sparks AAU basketball club
Club team finished second at the 2012 AAU National Championships in Orlando
Club team finished ninth at nationals in 2011 and sixth in 2010
The Saratoga Sparks congratulate long time Saratoga Spark Nicole Conley who was named as the final selection of NewsChannel 13's Girls High School Basketball All-Star Team. Conley has enjoyed an outstanding senior season averaging 18 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks a game. She is a 95 student and will study engineering and play her college basketball at Union next year.
Congratulations to Fonda senior Emily Parslow who is #8 on our NewsChannel 13/Rensselaer Honda Girls High School Basketball All-Star Team. Emily became the school's all-time leading scorer this season scoring more than 1,374 points. She is averaging 23 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds per game.
Small is Large for New Paltz, Gains Conference Honors
N.Y. – The State University of New York at New Paltz women's basketball team has earned two 2014-15 All-State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) honors, announced on Tuesday.
Sophomore guard/forward Kit Small (Slingerlands, N.Y./Academy of the Holy Names) was named to the Second Team while senior guard Shannan Walker (Vestal, N.Y./Vestal) earned Third-Team accolades. Both selections are career firsts.
Small led the Hawks in scoring this season, averaging 12.0 ppg. The sophomore was tied for first with 2.2 assists per game and was second on the team in rebounding (6.2 rpg), steals (1.6 spg), field goal percentage (37.6 percent) and minutes played (25.0 mpg). Small finished the 2014-15 campaign scoring double figures in 15 of the final 16 contests.
Walker, meanwhile, wrapped up her collegiate career tied for second on the team in scoring, averaging 8.1 ppg. The senior made a team-high 57 three-pointers, shooting 33.5 percent from long distance, and shot 28-of-38 from the foul line (73.7 percent). Walker led the team in playing time (27.9 mpg) and was third on the team in assists (1.9 apg) and fourth in steals (1.3 spg).
Walker ranked fourth in the SUNYAC in both three-point field goal percentage (33.5 percent) and three-pointers made per game (2.1). For her career, Walker notched 132 three-pointers and dished out 188 assists, tied for eighth-most in program history.
Small and Walker helped lead the Hawks to the No. 3 seed in the 2015 SUNYAC Women's Basketball Tournament, earning a quarterfinal win over No. 6 seed Buffalo State before falling to No. 2 seed SUNY Cortland in the semifinals.
Under the guidance of ninth-year head coach Jamie Seward – who earned his 150th career win this season – New Paltz ended the season 18-9 overall (13-5 SUNYAC), marking a drastic turnaround after a 6-19 (4-14 SUNYAC) record in 2013-14. Small and Walker become the 15th and 16th players, respectively, under Seward to earn All-SUNYAC accolades.
Mary Kate Cusack Huge During Elite 8 Championships
The St. John Fisher College women's basketball won the Empire 8 Conference Championship on Saturday, as the third-seeded Cardinals held on for an 86-84 overtime-win over host Ithaca College.
With the win, Fisher (21-6) earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship. The Cardinals will find out on Monday afternoon who and where they will play in the 64-team national tournament.
Junior Mary Kate Cusack scored a career-high 41 points and was selected as the Championship's Most Valuable Player. The guard tied the Fisher game-record for 3-pointer with eight for the second time in 14 days. The 41 points were one shy of the Fisher single-game record of 42, set by Melissa Hartman (2005) and Sue Mulroney (1979).
It was a back-and-forth game early on that featured 13 lead changes and six ties.The Cardinals led by as 12 at 19-7 just five minutes into the game. Ithaca came storming, however, and used a 22-3 run over the next seven minutes to take the lead.
The Bombers led 42-38 at the half, but Fisher regained the lead on a 3-pointer from Cusack with 16 minutes left, making it 49-48.
Fisher would lead by as many as eight at 76-68 with just under five minutes left. Ithaca, however, went on a 11-0 run to take a 79-76 lead with just over two minutes.
Cusack again answered for the Cardinals draining a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession, knotting the game at 79, where it would stay until the end of regulation.
Fisher would next trail in overtime. Senior Portia Velasco scored back-to-back buckets on Fisher's first two possessions in overtime. Ithaca trimmed Fisher's lead down to one point with just over 30 seconds left. After Cusack converted on 1-of-2 free throws with 12.7 seconds left, the Bombers attempted a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the top of the key as the horn sounded, but the shot clanged off the front of the rim.
Velasco finished with 19 points and four assists, while fellow senior Sydney Bloomstein grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, while scoring eight points.
Madison Rowland Named East Coast Conference Player of the Week
Central Islip, N.Y. - Queens College sophomore, Madison Rowland was named East Coast Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week, it was announced by the league office on Monday. This marks the fifth time this season that the sophomore has captured the award, more than any other player in the conference. In a 2-0 week for the Knights, Rowland averaged 19 points, ten rebounds and four steals per contest; as the team went 2-0. She came off the bench to finish with 14 points in a 74-61 win over NYIT. The 14 points gave her 1000 career points, making her just the ninth player in school history to reach that milestone. In a fait accompli, overtime win against LIU Post, the Cohoes, New York, native posted a double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds. She shot 50% from the field in that game.
The team returns to action on Tuesday, February 24, when they host Molloy. The opening tip is slated for 5:30 PM.
Cusack Scores 1,000th Point As Fisher Wins Big At Alfred
Junior Mary Kate Cusack became the 22nd player in the 41-year history of women's basketball at St. John Fisher College to score 1,000 points on Tuesday, as the Cardinals picked up an 82-55 win over host Alfred University.
With the win, Fisher improves to 18-5 overall and 11-3 in the Empire 8 Conference.
Ten different players scored for Fisher in the win, with every player seeing at least eight minutes of action.
Cusack, who entered the game needing just six points to reach the historic milestone, scored her 1,000th point on a layup with 14:05 left in the first half, giving her team an 18-4 lead, and the Cardinals never looked back. The junior guard also moved into second place at Fisher in career 3-pointers with 173 in the win and finished the game with 17 points.
Senior Portia Velasco led the way for Fisher with 20 points. She became just the sixth player in Fisher history to over the 1,400-point mark for her career.
Fellow senior Sydney Bloomstein tallied 15 points and a career-high 12 rebounds, marking the first double-double in her 100-game career.
Emily Piacentini tallied eight points and six steals in the win, while Nicole Robinson totaled eight points and seven rebounds.
Fisher returns to action at 6 p.m. on Friday at Hartwick College. The Cardinals will then close out the regular season at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Stevens Institute of Technology. Fisher has already earned one of four spots in the following weekend's Empire 8 Conference Championship.
Women’s Basketball Player – St. John Fisher Mary Kate Cusack, Junior, Guard – Clifton Park, NY/Shenendehowa
In a 3-0 week, Mary Kate Cusack averaged 16 points, five steals and 2.7 assists, while shooting 53.6 percent from the floor and a perfect 14-for-14 from the foul line. She scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half as Fisher erased an 11-point deficit and gave Ithaca its first Empire 8 loss on Saturday. The junior scored Fisher's final six points – all of which came at the foul line. On Friday, she finished with eight steals in a win over Houghton.
New coaching staffs in place for Gloversville basketball programs November 11, 2014 By JAMES A. ELLIS , Leader Herald
GLOVERSVILLE - There has been a changing of the guard in the Gloversville High School basketball programs. With the retirement of Mark LeFever from the Dragons' boys program and Robyn Guzielek stepping aside as head coach in the girls program, new coaches have been appointed for the upcoming season.
Former Gloversville player and junior varsity coach Aric Kucel steps up to guide the Dragons' boys varsity team this season, while Molly Swan has been named the head coach for the Lady Dragons.
Not only are the varsity coaches new, none of the coaches at the junior varsity or freshman levels were with the programs last season.
"We are not rebuilding our boys basketball program, which has been a mainstay here in Gloversville for a long time," Gloversville High School Athletic Director Mike DeMagistris said. "The fortunate thing about Gloversville basketball is that we have had a Gloversville alumni coach our team for 28 years, so they know the tradition here. Mark LeFever [2009-2014] took the torch from Don Landrio [1986-2009], and hopefully, Aric is going to take the torch from Mark and keep running with it." Kucel was a three-year starting point guard for the Landrio-coached Dragons and was a second team All Foothills player in his junior and senior years. He moved on to play for two years at Hudson Valley Community College, where he was named team MVP in his final season. He ranks third all time in assists and steals and seventh in 3-point field goals made for the Vikings. He joined the Gloversville coaching staff as a modified coach before moving up to coach the junior varsity team under LeFever for the past six years.
"I have been a Dragon basketball player since I was in second grade," Kucel said. "I felt like I basically grew up in the old high school gym because of all the time I spent there. I never missed one of Coach Landrio's winter clinics or summer camps, and I was always in the gym after school or during the summer constantly working on my game. I spent countless hours in the high school gym because I wanted to help this program be successful. Now I get to do it as a coach. It is truly an honor and a privilege."
Swan played basketball for Shenendehowa High School under hall of fame coach Ken Strube. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, Swan spent the last two years coaching in both the basketball and softball programs at Colonie High School.
"Sports have always been a big part of who I am," Swan said. "At Shenendehowa High School, I played both basketball and softball, which allowed me to develop lifelong friendships and leadership skills that have carried over to my adult life. Growing up, I was also involved in the Saratoga Sparks AAU program and enjoyed the time that I got to spend alongside my teammates as we continued to work on our basketball skills. Coaching has given me an opportunity to pass on to my players the many positives that I have gained through being involved in athletics: discipline, respect, teamwork and a sense of pride." DeMagistris said he is confident Swan can help turn around the Lady Dragons' program that won the Foothills Council in 2007, but last won a varsity game in December of 2010.
"My impression after the first five minutes of talking with her was that she was the right person for the job," DeMagistris said. "We were fortunate enough that Molly was hired as one of our school's counselors. Her pedigree shows she played for some great coaches like coach Kucel did. Her father, Patrick, is helping us out this year and he coached the Saratoga Sparks for a long time."
Swan is joined on her coaching staff by first-year junior varsity coach Mary Insognia, while LeFever's retirement was short-lived as he joins the Lady Dragons' program as the girls' modified coach along with Jason Hillabrandt.
"LeFever went from the boys' program to the girls' modified program so she can tap into his experience of 20-plus years, which I think will be a benefit for our girls' program," DeMagistris said. "We are very confident that our girls' program will be very competitive in the next couple of years. Molly is very excited and passionate about the game and we are excited about having her on the staff."
Taking over a program that dropped from the varsity level in 2011 and playing two seasons at the junior varsity level before returning to varsity competition in 2013 is a challenge Swan said she is looking forward to.
"I think that the program has been slowly rebuilding and we are eager to be part of a growing program," she said. "The coaching staff [including myself] is excited by the talent we have seen in the open gym so far this year. I think that the youth program is on the upswing and the more girls that we can get involved at a younger age, the brighter the future looks for Gloversville basketball. We have had open gyms and the girls are excited for the season to begin. Tryouts begin today and the teams will be finalized by the end of the week. By Friday the girls will have a good understanding of our expectations as a program and their role heading into the season."
The boys' program also has a new coaching staff at all levels.
"We have an entire new coaching staff this year," Kucel said. "I'm very excited about the guys we have in place. These guys can really teach the game and have a passion for Gloversville basketball."
John Lott will take over the junior varsity coaching duties, while Blaine Nellis is the freshmen coach. Ryan Mulligan and Dan Getman will coach the modified programs.
"We also have two varsity assistants, Kevin Jones and Ed Collar," Kucel said. "John Lott, Ryan Mulligan and Dan Getman are all former Gloversville athletes, who understand the pride and tradition of Gloversville basketball. Blaine Nellis was a longtime JV coach at Fort Plain, where he had a lot of success coaching under Craig Phillips. Kevin Jones and Ed Collar are current college coaches at Fulton-Montgomery Community College Those two, to me, are the best coaches in the area and are going to do great things for our kids and our program."
Kucel is set to put his own stamp on the Dragons' basketball tradition.
"Our goals heading into this season and every season will be to play up to our standards," he said. "We have developed something called the Maroon and White Standards. These standards are how we practice, how we play and how we act. As a coach, I want my players to focus more on playing up to our standards, rather than worrying about results. If we play to our standards, we know the results will most likely be in our favor. The Maroon and White Standards are: Pride-Passion-Caring-Demanding-Confidence-Selfless-Relentless-Courage-Toughness-Willingness to Earn It."
Although tryouts officially started Monday, preparation for the upcoming season has been in the process with open gyms and clinics.
"We have been getting together since July and the turnouts were excellent," Kucel said. "We were getting 30-40 guys everyday from seventh grade to varsity who were coming in and working on developing their skills. We took a break as players were playing their fall sports. But this past week, we've been getting together after school for our Gloversville Basketball Orientation. It's been a great turnout and you can see our players get better as the week is progressing. It's been a nice way for all of our players to meet all of their coaches, work on their skills and for them to get a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish on the offensive and defensive end."
The Dragons are scheduled to open their season at home on Dec. 4 with a non-league contest against Nortre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, and will open their Foothills Council campaign Dec. 12 at Johnstown.
"I'm just so excited to get going; I've been waiting a long time for this season," Kucel said. "I'm just very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a teacher and to be a coach in this program. Everyday I'm going to try to help our kids and program become successful."
The Lady Dragons open their season Dec. 5 with a non-league game at Mechanicville High School and will host the Johnstown Lady Bills in their Foothills Council opener Dec. 12.
Saint Francis Wins Overtime Thriller at Central Connecticut State
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (Jan. 6, 2014) – The Saint Francis University women's basketball team earned an overtime victory over Central Connecticut State, 106-97, on Monday evening to earn its first Northeast Conference win of the season.
The Red Flash (3-10, 1-1) outscored the Blue Devils (6-6, 0-2) 21-12 in the overtime period and put up their second-highest offensive output in school history with the 106 total points. It was the most points SFU has scored since January 10, 2004.
Alli Williams (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) flirted with a triple-double as the senior poured in 27 points and added eight rebounds and six assists. Bridget Murphy (Bethlehem, N.Y./Bethlehem Central) set another career-high with a 24 point effort; the freshman shot 7-of-10 from the field and 9-of-12 from the free throw line.
"We missed some free throws late in regulation that we should have had, I was proud of how we battled in overtime," said SFU head coach Joe Haigh.
Alexa Hayward (Beaver Falls, Pa./Blackhawk) posted another 20 point game, her fourth of the season. Aisha Brock (Jacksonville, Fla./Potter's House Christian Academy) and Erin Blaine (Washington, D.C./H.D. Woodson) also posted 10 points to round out the SFU players in double-figures.
"In order for us to really make some noise in Northeast Conference play we must have the younger kids continue to step up," Haigh continued.
Alexa Hayward (Beaver Falls, Pa./Blackhawk) keyed the scoring to start the game, the junior knocked down three triples in the first four minutes of the contest to spark a lead for SFU. The Flash would go on to lead by as much as eight halfway through the period.
Central Connecticut then went on 23-9 run to take an eight point lead of its own. SFU battled back and after a Bridget Murphy (Bethlehem, N.Y./Bethlehem Central) short jumper with 20 seconds to go, SFU trailed by just three at the break (44-41).
CCSU extended its lead in the second half to 11 at the 7:09 mark and Saint Francis would again have to mount a comeback. SFU did just that and embarked on a 21-6 run over just three minutes of play to regain the lead. The run was sparked by Murphy who notched five straight points.
Lauren Arbogast nailed a three with 20 seconds left in regulation for the Blue Devils to take an 85-84 lead. Alli Williams (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) got to the free throw line and knocked down 1-2 to tie the game at 85.
Saint Francis capitalized on its free throws in the overtime period and pulled away for good.
74 total fouls were called in the contest, SFU converted on 40-62 free throws, while CCSU notched 27-40.
Saint Francis will return Loretto for the first time in over a month as it takes on Fairleigh Dickinson at 1 p.m. inside DeGol Arena.
Small Keys Road Victory for Women's Basketball Over Cortland, 58-48
CORTLAND, N.Y. – In her last eight games, freshman forward Kit Small (Slingerlands, N.Y./Academy of the Holy Names) has established herself as one of the top rookies in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC), and her performance Tuesday night against SUNY Cortland sent a message to the entire conference that she'll be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Behind Small's 22-point performance, highlighted by her aggressive pursuit of the basket, the State University of New York at New Paltz women's basketball team avenged an earlier season 13-point loss against the Red Dragons, with a 58-48 gutsy road victory. As has become the norm, Small made her living at the free-throw line, converting on 12-of-15 attempts. Junior guards Ashley Riefenhauser (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y./Dobbs Ferry) and Shannan Walker (Vestal, N.Y./Vestal), came through with clutch three-pointers to augment Small. Walker's was particularly poignant, as she drained a 28-footer from the top of the key with 2:12 to play to help seal the victory.
The Hawks improve to 5-15, 3-10 in the SUNYAC, and have now won two of their last three games. Cortland drops to 11-9, 7-6. New Paltz returns to the Hawk Center for its final home games of the season, starting with a 6 p.m. contest against Buffalo State on Friday, Feb. 7. Cortland travels to SUNY Oswego on Saturday, Feb. 8, for a 6 p.m. game.
Small, who has averaged 17.1 points per game in her last eight outings, was difficult to contain, equally effective in both halves. With a total team effort, New Paltz reversed a 32-27 halftime deficit into a 41-37 lead that was highlighted by a Rienfenhauser three-pointer and a Hawk defense that held Cortland scoreless for nearly eight minutes early in the session.
The Hawks were down 37-28 after Cortland senior guard Megan Touhey nailed a three-pointer at the 18:08 mark, but went on a nifty 13-0 run for the 41-37 lead and never looked back. Four consecutive points by Small gave New Paltz a 45-40 advantage, and while Cortland got within 45-44 on a layup from senior forward Grace Williamson, New Paltz freshman forward Courtney Irby (Farmingdale, N.Y./Farmingdale) answered with a power layup from the right side for a 47-44 lead. Two subsequent free throws from sophomore guard Christine Rivera (Long Beach, N.Y./Valley Stream) and Walker's deep three-pointer pushed New Paltz ahead 52-46 with 2:14 remaining.
In the first half, Williamson was a handful down low, scoring 10 points in the first 5:08 of the game and 14 of Cortland's first 19 points. Sophomore guard Goldie Harrison (Elmont, N.Y./Elmont Memorial) pushed the pace, however, and kept New Paltz within striking distance with her aggressive style of play that earned her a 6-for-8 night from the free-throw line. When Cortland surged ahead 26-20 with 2:22 until intermission, back-to-back baskets by Rienfenhauser and Walker kept the Red Dragons from pulling away.
Small finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. Harrison finished with 10 points. Irby had eight rebounds. Cortland's offensive scoring came from Williamson's 19 points. Junior forward Erin Wolstenholme had 16 rebounds.
Central Islip, N.Y. - Queens College freshman Madison Rowland was named East Coast Conference Player of the Week, it was announced by the league office on Monday. This marks the second time this season that Rowland has earned the title. In a pair of victories on the week, the Cohoes, New York native averaged 30 points per game. Against Molloy on Wednesday, Rowland scored a game-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting. She also pulled down five rebounds. In a career high game on Saturday at Bridgeport, the guard posted her first career triple-double with 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 steals. All were team-highs. She continues to lead the nation in steals per game and leads all freshman in scoring. The Knights return to action on Friday, February 7, when they face Roberts Wesleyan on the road.
Fisher Pushes Winning Streak To Four Games With Win Over Naz
The St. John Fisher College women's basketball program pushed its winning streak to four games, as the Cardinals rallied for an 86-68 win at East-Avenue rival Nazareth College on Tuesday night.
With the win, Fisher improves to 12-6 overall and 5-3 in the Empire 8 Conference.
The Cardinals shot 53.8% from the floor and only committed five turnovers in the opening half, but trailed 37-34 at the break, as the Golden Flyers enjoyed a 20-13 advantage on the glass, while grabbing eight offensive boards.
Nazareth led 46-43 with 16:54 left, but the Cardinals went on an 8-0 run and took the lead for good on a jumper from Lauren Allen from the top of the key with 14:33 remaining.
The Golden Flyers trimmed Fisher's lead down to seven at 73-66 with just over three minutes left, but the Cardinals used another 8-0 run to pull away, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Claire Walsh in a 22-second span.
Mary Kate Cusack led Fisher with 21 points. The sophomore shot 7-for-11 from the floor and added five steals. Portia Velasco tallied 18 points and five assists, while Sydney Bloomstein totaled 16 points and six assists. Camaryn Buckner posted 13 points, while McKenzie Bezon shot 2-for-3 from 3-point range and finished with eight points.
As a team, Fisher shot 56.8% from the floor, including 8-of-16 from 3-point range. The Cardinals were also 16-of-18 at the foul line.
Fisher will return to action at 8 p.m. on Friday at Stevens Institute of Technology.
The Saratoga Sparks are very proud and would like to congratulate Tamarac's Jenna Erickson for topping the 1000 point mark. Jenna scored a team high 24 points during Tamarac's 68-41 victory over Schuylerville on Tuesday night.
St. John Fisher College’s Mary Kate Cusack of the women’s basketball team has been named as the College’s Female Athlete of the Week for the week ending December 9, 2012.
In a 2-1 week for the Cardinals, Cusack came off the bench and averaged 13.3 points, 3.7 steals and 2.3 rebounds, while knocking down nine 3-pointers. Her biggest 3-pointer of the week came on Friday night, as the freshman guard swished a shot with 1.0 seconds left in overtime to give her team a 66-64 win over visiting Elmira College.
Cusack started the week off by tallying 18 points and seven steals (both career-highs) in a 63-43 win over visiting Alfred University on Tuesday.
She finished the week off by scoring 10 of her 16 points in the second half in an 87-82 loss in double-overtime at Rochester Institute of Technology on Sunday in a game that saw the Cardinals battle back from an 18-point deficit in the final nine minutes of regulation.
For the season, Cusack is averaging 9.5 points and leads the team in both steals (26) and 3-pointers made (16). Fisher (5-6 overall, 2-0 Empire 8) will return to action on January 4th at Utica College.
The Sparks would like to announce that Syndie Rosales has chosen to play her college basketball at Marist College in Poughkeesie. Sydnie had scholarship offers from almost 50 colleges. Sydnie has had a storied career with both the Sparks and Colonie High School.
Syndie first played at the varsity level in the 7th grade during the Sectionals. She has continued on the Colonie Varsity since that time. Last year as a junior she averaged 15 points per game 3.5 assists, 2.8 steals, and 3.3 rebounds while leading her team to a Sectional II Title. She was selected 1st Team Suburban Council, 12th Team All-State, 2nd Team Large Schools and News Channel 13 All-Star. She was also named MVP of the Sectional Tournament
As a Spark, Sydnie was MVP of the Gym Rat Challenge. She also helped her Sparks team to a 2nd place finish at the National AAU Tournament by leading in scoring, steals and being second in assists and rebounds. She was also elected team captain. As a Spark she averaged double digits in scoring including 112 three pointers.
Sydnie is also an A student who currently has a 94.045 average.
AAU team features several of the top high school juniors in Section II By Rob Jonas
Some of the top Section II girls basketball players proved they are among the nation’s best players.
The Saratoga Sparks 16-and-under team placed second at last week’s AAU National Championships in Orlando. The Sparks reached the finals before losing to the LA Angels of Louisiana 53-46.
“The girls have worked hard, and they’ve played together for three years now,” said Sparks head coach Carlin DeMarinis. “It was time for them to make that run.”
The Sparks feature a who’s who of junior talent in the Capital District. Sydnie Rosales and Jaclyn Welch represented Section II Class AA champion Colonie on the 12-player roster, while Class B champion Watervliet had Ailayia Demand, Mikayle Deguire and Lashana Tolliver on the team.
“I think we really enjoy the summers playing together,” said Rosales. “We’ve grown to love playing together, and our level of play has expanded as a result.”
“When we first came together in our freshman year, we weren’t sure of each other and we didn’t talk much,” said Welch. “Now, we get along great.”
Other players on the team include Bethlehem’s Bridget Murphy, Scotia-Glenville’s Cassie Broadhead, Shaker’s Madison Rowland, Shenendehowa’s Alyssia Marsal and Ballston Spa’s Sydney Hansen.
“It’s almost like a coach’s dream to have all these all-stars from Section II on one team,” said DeMarinis.
The Sparks didn’t have Broadhead for the championship game against the LA Angels because her Mormon religion forbids physical activity on Sundays, but Murphy stepped up and scored 20 points to lead the way.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have Cassie, but it was time for some of the other girls to step up. That’s what Bridget Murphy did,” said DeMarinis. “She played like Cassie out there.”
“We tried to pick up our play as much as we could without Cassie,” said Rosales.
The Sparks began the five-day tournament in style by beating their three opponents in pool play. They defeated Girls Got Game from Florida 56-52 in last Tuesday’s opener, and they followed up with a 50-29 victory over Team Reign from North Carolina and a 51-44 win against the Region Lady Bulldogs from Indiana.
Julia Zachgo has loved the game of basketball since she was introduced to it in the 3rd grade through the Clifton Park Recreation Program. She has had so many wonderful experiences and great coaches along the way. She would love to play for her high school team at Shenendehowa some day. I admire how much time and energy she puts into practicing and improving her skills. She is a very dedicated player. If it weren't for the Sparks organization and the friends she has made I don't believe she would love the sport as much as she does. Her father and I just love watching Julia and her team play. GO SPARKS!
The Sparks would like to congratulate Emily Weber from Shenendehowa High School
and Ailayia Demand from Watervliet High School. The two Sparks were each named large and small school players of the year by the Times Union.
Both players are outstanding high school athletes who honed their skills with the Sparks. Senior Weber will be going to Division I Canisius in the fall on a full athletic scholarship. Ailayia led her team to a Class B sectional title this year.
In addition the Sparks would also like to congratulate Sydnie Rosales of Colonie, Mary Kate Cusack of Shenendehowa, Cassie Broadhead of Scotia and Lauren Woods and Madison Rowland of Shaker for being named to the Large school All-Star first team. Sparks Amanda Batzold of Columbia, MacKenzie Rowland of Shaker and Bridget Murphy of Bethlehem were also named to the Second Team Large School All-Stars.
In the Small School Division, Mikayla Deguire of Watervliet and MyAsis Alston of Cohoes were each named to the First Team. In addition, Lashona Tolliver of Watervliet and Sophomore Jenna Erickson of Tamarac were each named to the second team.
Congratulations to all these Sparks for their efforts and achievements both in high school and AAU.
Roxanne Gibbs of Cohoes Named News Channel 13 Player of the Week
Roxanne Gibbs is a senior on the Cohoes Basketball team and averages a double-double per night. She overcame a potentially serious injury to get back with her team for the culmination of her senior season.
The Saratoga Sparks would like to congratulate Mary Kate Cusack, Cassie Broadhead and Emily Weber. Each have been named as News Channel 13 Allstars and all three are long time Saratoga Sparks. The organization takes great pride in all of them and each of their individual accomplishments.
We will have more details on each of their stories in the coming days, and will continue to watch as more awards are revealed.
ROCHESTER, NY -- Sophomore forward Kayla Wheeler (Clifton Park, NY/Shenendehowa), of the RIT women's basketball team, was named Liberty League Women's Basketball Co-Players of the Week for the week ending December 4, 2011.
Wheeler helped RIT to their best (4th) finish in 19 trips to the Wendy's College Classic last week. The sophomore forward averaged 12.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks in three games. In the opening round game, Wheeler scored 17 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished out eight assists and had three steals as RIT defeated St. John Fisher 62-60. Her bucket and free throw with 10 seconds remaining in regulation, gave the Tigers a two-point lead. Her steal on Fisher's next possession sealed the win for RIT and advanced the Tigers to the semifinals for the first time in 19 tries at the Wendy's Classic.
In the semis versus Roberts Wesleyan, Wheeler tallied nine points and grabbed nine rebounds.
She wrapped up the week with 11 points and 10 rebounds in the third place game versus William Smith. For the week, Wheeler shot 40.6 percent from the floor and was 11-of-13 (84.6%) from the foul line for the the Tigers.
Wheeler is third on the team in scoring averaging 11.0 points per game and averages 7.3 rebounds per game for the Tigers who are 2-4 on the season.
The Tigers return to action on Sunday, Dec. 11 with a non-conference road game at St. John FIsher. Tip-off at Fisher is 2 pm.
Modest Scotia guard is tough on her opponents By JAMES ALLEN, Staff writer Published 11:35 p.m., Saturday, December 3, 2011
SCOTIA — Asking Cassie Broadhead to talk about her basketball exploits is not an easy proposition, but covering the Scotia junior guard may be the more daunting task.
Broadhead, who is beginning her fourth varsity season with the Tartans, has already provided Brigham Young University coach Jeff Judkins her oral commitment to compete for the Cougars in the 2013-14 season. BYU went 25-9 in 2010-11.
"I'm very relieved. It was so stressful. It is nice to know your future is already set," Broadhead said. "My sisters are out there in Utah and so are so many family members. It is a very nice campus."
Just a junior, Broadhead opened her season Friday night with a game-high 22 points in a 54-31 nonleague victory at Stillwater. That pushed Broadhead's career total to 1,001 points. She is on pace to become one of the top 20 scorers in Section II girls' basketball history.
Not surprisingly, Broadhead was embarrassed by the attention she received after reaching her milestone in the fourth quarter with two free throws.
"It is hard to get her to talk to (the media). She doesn't like to talk about herself. Cassie is very humble," Scotia coach Regan Burns said. "It is a testament to what a great kid Cassie is and the family she has. She makes our program and community look good by the way she handles everything."
Broadhead was noticed by BYU and several other Division I schools during her time in the spring and summer with the Saratoga Sparks. Among her teammates on coach Tony Mingione's 15-and-under squad were Sydnie Rosales (Colonie), Bridget Murphy (Bethlehem), Ailayia Demand (Watervliet), LaShana Tolliver (Watervliet) and Alyssia Marsal (Shenendehowa).
Rosales, also a junior who has given Siena College her oral commitment, teamed with Broadhead in the Sparks' prolific backcourt. The two helped lead the team to a top-10 finish at the AAU Nationals in Orlando, Fla. "I'd give the ball to her and she'd make me look good. We had a lot of fun playing together," Broadhead said of Rosales.
"Sydnie is a great kid and has great talent. Cassie was playing with the best competition in the area. Those two really pushed each other," Burns said.
As a sophomore at Scotia, Broadhead earned her second straight Foothills Council Most Valuable Player award after averaging 17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.7 steals per game for the Tartans.
"Every year, Cassie has improved her game tremendously. She is a lot better than she was last year," Burns said. "BYU, between her play at elite camps, AAU and workouts, could see her work ethic and how much she is willing to work in the future. You can see that drive."
A third-team state Class A all-star selection, Broadhead helped Scotia advance to its first appearance in the Section II Class A semifinals. Despite a game-high 18 points by Broadhead, the top-seeded Tartans fell to No. 4 Averill Park 49-36. The Warriors, just 7-11 during the regular season, went on to play in the state title game.
"It is hard to talk about it," Broadhead said. "It was difficult because I don't think we came to our full potential. Anytime you don't succeed or reach your potential, it is always a big disappointment."
"Last year, she was still only a sophomore and Cassie led by her talent. She's now taking a more active role with her teammates," Burns said. "As a younger player, she didn't want to step on toes. She doesn't have that option now."
Broadhead's resolve to get better is unwavering. Her natural ability to score and distribute to teammates show Broadhead is special and her maturity and relentless pursuit of improvement make the junior a must-see player.
The Sparks are pleased to announce that Emily Weber will be playing college basketball at Canisius College of the MAAC. Emily has signed a letter of intent to accept a full scholarship to play basketball for Canisius next year. The 5'-9" shooting guard from Shenendehowa played with the Sparks for six years.
Emily has been a Shenendehowa varsity player for 4 years. She is also a two time News Channel 13 All-Star and was the Suburban Council MVP for 2010/11 season. Emily has led Shenendehowa in scoring for the past two years and is poised to become a 1000 point career scorer this year.
Emily played on Sparks teams that competed at National Tournaments and other high profile events. It was during these tournaments that she was noticed by dozens of D-1 coaches and offered numerous opportunities to play basketball at their schools. She chooce Canisius due to their education and basketball opportunities.
Emily has an 92% GPA and has always been on high honor roll. She will major in business administration and would like to pursue a career in marketing. If she brings the same dedication to her career as she has to her studies and basketball she will undoubtably be successful.
Sparks Make Another Top 10 Finish at the AAU National Tournament
The Saratoga Sparks 15 Orange team once again competed at the National AAU Championships and like last year finished in the top 10. The Sparks compiled a 5-2 record while coming first in their pool and 9th in the tournament. In spite of losing their first game by a point to the Cardinal Elite, the Sparks went on to beat both the Georgia and Kentucky State Champions to win their pool. The Sparks then went on to the Championship Round and unfortunately lost the opening game to the Alabama State Champions before reeling off three victories against the Bay State Jaguars, Love Elite the Maryland Champs and the Cardinal Elite.
The Sparks did this while averaging over 61 points a game. The Sparks were led in scoring by Colonie's Sydnie Rosales with 88 points and Scotia's Cassie Broadhead with 83. The Sparks were led in rebounds by Watervliet's Lashana Tolliver and Mikayla Deguire. Cassie also lead the team in assists with Bethlehem's Bridget Murphy a close second.
Because this was a live Division 1 viewing period Coach Mingione has received many calls from D-1 coaches about many players on the team. The coaches reported being very impressed not only with individual players but also with the team oriented approach of the players.
The team will continue its schedule with two Fall Tournaments during D-1 viewing period in October.
The Saratoga Sparks 8th grade team recently swept a weekend series to claim the Great Adirondack Shootout Championship hosted by the Northern Lites in Lake George. Inside the cozy confines of the Glens Falls YMCA, the Sparks were able to win all three of their scheduled preliminary games by double digit scores. The formula for winning was consistent throughout the tournament, build up early leads and play disciplined defense which proved to frustrate their opponents.
After cruising through their bracket it was on to Hudson Falls Middle School for the Championship game against the Fulton Montgomery Stars. The game did not start fast for the Sparks. Watching her team fall behind 5-0 to begin the game was more than Coach Pleasure could bare, she yanked the starting five off the court. The rafter echoed as the soft spoken coach shared the following message with her fresh troops "...and if you don't do any better, you'll be on the bench too...", The message was well received, the Sparks swarming and suffocating press limited the Stars to very few scoring opportunities as they cruised to a lopsided victory. The young Sparks outscored their opponents 173-84 over the Memorial Day weekend to claim their 2nd championship of the season.
The Saratoga Sparks seventh grade team took a ride on north bound 87 last weekend to participate in the 2011 Lake Placid Primetime Challenge. The trip proved beneficial for the young Sparks as they edged out the Empire Nighthawks in a very exciting Championship game 25-24. The Sparks jumped out to early eight point lead, but the Nighthawks roared back in the second half and took a three point advantage of their own with less than three minutes to play. The Sparks once again rallied and made a couple of free throws to cut the margin. Their tenacious defense forced several turnovers during the last two minutes to secure the victory and the Championship. The Sparks were undefeated during the weekend and posting a perfect 4-0 record.
Pictured: Front Row Left to Right: Natalia Carmon, Madison Borden, Paige Francesconi, Julia Marino, Colleen Doiron Back Row: Charlee Pollard, Ariana Chillis, Kendall Ackner, Erika Ryan, Faith Gilbert, Gigi Flint. Not Pictured: Llayla Nayar Head Coach Todd Doiron and Assistant Coaches Carey Ryan and Mike Borden.
The Saratoga Sparks 6th Grade Team pictured below after winning the Albany Redhawk Rumble. The team is pictured with the donation check being made in the team’s honor to the Coaches vs. Cancer Foundation. The team went 5-0 in the tournament running its season record to 20-3.
Pictured left to right: Front: Sarah Kowaleski, Devin Davidson, Abby Green, Kelsey Cirincione, Julianna Taylor, Cameron Tooley. Back: Head Coach John Ricci, Julia Zachgo, Bethany Pochobradski, Sondra Slepski, Mikayla Spiak, Caitlyn Estes, Sarah Ricci, Assistant Coach Martina Tooley.
The Saratoga Sparks 13U Orange team has gelled quickly this season and recently went 4-0 to win the Zero Gravity Championship held at LeMoyne College in Syracuse.
After breezing through their first two games and pulling out a nail-biter to improve to 3-0, the smaller, but very athletic Sparks were pitted against the well polished and physically larger foe in the Lady Knuckleheads of Binghamton, New York. Tenacious defense and quick and skillful drives to the basket, along with and great foul shooting brought the girls back from a double-digit hole. Coach Pleasure's plan to have the girls take the ball hard to the hoop resulted in foul shot opportunities and eventually two less Knuckleheads. Bodies were hitting the floor at both ends of the court and the Sparks rallied to a 49-47 victory.
Pictured above: from upper left-Coach Pleasure, Talia Segal, Macie Holmes, Camryn David, Lauren Canterbury, Nicole Conley, Maggie Stalter and Asst. Coach Hopkins. From lower left-Taylor Murphy, Emily Patchell, Maya Lewis and Amanda Lee. Missing were Mikayla Lansing and Meghan Malone.
The organization would like to congratulate long time Saratoga Spark Taylor Whyte. The 6’1” center from Ballston Spa will be shipping off to Boston this fall to attend the University of Massachusetts. Taylor will be studying hard towards earning a degree in psychology, skills that would have been handy to have during her last AAU season while dealing with a coach with bipolar disorder.
We are all proud of Taylor's accomplishments as a member of the Saratoga Sparks and wish her the best as she starts the next chapter of her education while kicking off her college basketball career. We would also like to thank her parents, Donna and Mark, who have donated their time and talents over the years. Mark is responsible for many of the action photos that we proudly display on this website. The next generation of Sparks will probably be hand drawn.
Broadhead, Conley and Sanboeuf Grab Foothills Council Honors
The Foothills Council released the names of their girls basketball all-stars and three Saratoga Sparks received honors. The Organization is very proud of their individual achievements this past season and would like to congratulate each of the players and their families on their selections.
Sophomore Cassie Broadhead of Scotia High School was named league MVP while senior center Danielle Conley and senior guard Kaila Sanboeuf each received notice. Conley was selected to the First Team while Sanboeuf received honorable mention. All three of these talented young ladies were teammates last season with Scotia High School and they lead the Tartans to a near perfect 19-1 record.
Once again, the organization would like to congratulate each of the players selected, we are all looking forward to hearing more about their accomplishments during the upcoming AAU season and within the college ranks.
Tetrault, Demand, Tolliver, Alston, Beauchamp and Dequire recieve All-City Honors
The Troy Record All-City Girls Basketball All-star team was announced recently and six Sparks received honors. The Organization is proud of their achievements this past season and would like to congratulate each of the players and their families on their selections.
First team selections included sophomore Ailayia Demand of Watervliet High School and senior Bailei Tetrault of Cohoes High School. Second team selections included junior My’Asia Alston of Cohoes High School and sophomore Lashana Tolliver of Watervliet High School.
Sophomore Mikayla Deguire of Watervliet High School and senior Danielle Beauchamp of Cohoes High School each received Honorable Mention.
Once again, congratulation to each of the players selected, we are all looking forward to a hearing more about these young ladies during the upcoming AAU season and beyond.
Batzold, Rosales and Murphy selected Suburban Council Allstars
The 2010-11 Suburban Council Girls Basketball All-star team was announced this past week and four Sparks received honors. The Organization is proud of their achievements this past season and would like to congratulate each of the players and their families on their selections.
First team selection sophomore Sydnie Rosales of Colonie High School. Second team selections were junior Amanda Batzold of Columbia High School and sophomore Bridget Murphy of Bethlehem High School.
Once again, congratulation to each of the players selected, we are all looking forward to a hearing more about these young ladies during the upcoming AAU season as Saratoga Sparks.
The Saratoga Sparks are very proud to announce that Alexis Perryman will be heading to Elmira College this fall. The 5'-10" guard from Queensbury HIgh School will be studying to become a teacher while helping the Souring Eagles complete in the Elite 8 Conference.
Perryman had a fantastic career with the Sparks averaging almost nine points while collecting 3.2 steals per game. Her efforts during the USA Invitational at Penn State University helped the Sparks secure an 11th place finish. Elmira College is getting one of the best all a round guards in the Capital District.
We wish Alexis well as she starts her college career and thank her and her family for their contributions and dedication to the Sparks program.
The Saratoga Sparks are pleased to announce that for the second year in a row, Scotia Glenville point guard Cassie Broadhead has been named to the NewsChannel 13 All-Star team. Cassie is averaging eighteen points a game helping the her seventh ranked Tartans remain undefeated this season. Last summer Cassie was a member of the Saratoga Sparks freshman team which traveled to Orlando Florida to compete in the AAU Nationals where the Sparks finished 6th.
Broadhead joins fellow Spark Emily Weber on the current list of five. Congratulations to Cassie and her family for this great accomplishment.
The Saratoga Sparks organization would like to recognized the efforts Kalia Sanboeuf, Danielle Conley and Cassie Broadhead who were all featured in an article this week by the Schenectady Gazette. If you subscribe to the Gazette you can enjoy the story.
The trio of Sparks have lead the 7th ranked Class A Tartans to a 12-0 start during the 2010-2011 campaign.Sanboeuf and Broadhead led the Tartans with five steals apiece, and Danielle Conley had four of Scotia-Glenville's six blocked shots. Their efforts helped the Tartans pin down the South Glens Falls Bulldogs for a second time, following a 49-31 season-opening triumph over their longtime rival.
COHOES -- The opening night of the season for the Cohoes High girls' basketball team proved to be an eye-opening experience as perennial small-school power Hoosic Valley's suffocating man-to-man defense helped the Indians post a 54-34 win Nov. 30.
"It was a really tough way to start. We thought we'd give them a better battle than that," Cohoes senior Bailei Tetrault said. "They have the best defense around." Things didn't get much better for Cohoes three nights later in its Colonial Council opener against defending league champion Holy Names as the Tigers dropped a 41-34 decision.
The team, which spent six nights a week together throughout the summer competing in four leagues and working together in two open gym nights, hoped for better than an 0-2 start. All the difficult beginning did for the Tigers is make them work even harder. That resolve, and the subsequent results, speak for themselves.
The Tigers (9-2, 8-1) have climbed to the No. 8 ranking in the latest state Class B poll on the strength of a nine-game winning streak. Cohoes looks to make it 10 in a row Friday when it hosts Holy Names (10-1, 8-1) in a showdown for first place in the Colonial Council Patriot Division. Game time is 7. Cohoes has captured those nine games by an average margin of victory of 28 points. The only close contest during that span was when the Tigers edged Watervliet -- ranked No. 3 in the state Class B poll at that time -- 54-53.
"I'm really happy with the way we're playing," Cohoes coach Dan Hytko said. "They've handled the adjustments we've put in. I can't ask them to play much better. It has been a combination of the defense we're playing and making good decisions on the offensive end."
"Our confidence level is higher and we're really starting to click now," said Tetrault, who is second on the team at 11.8 points per game. Among its triumphs during the winning streak are impressive league victories over Ravena (53-30), Mechanicville (71-43) and Fonda (63-27). The Tigers also avenged their loss to Hoosic Valley with a 53-32 decision Dec. 30.
"They are good, but we got them the last time," said Cohoes junior guard My'Asia Alston, who leads the Tigers in scoring at 14.9 ppg.
"We knew we had the potential and we've worked really hard in practice. Everything is coming together," Tetrault said.
In addition to the backcourt combination of Alston and Tetrault, Hytko starts senior forward Danielle Beachamp (8.7 ppg), junior center Roxanne Gibbs (6.8 ppg) and junior center Sarah McDonald (4.5 ppg). Alston, a 5-foot-7 dynamo, has scored in double digits all 11 games, including her best performance of the season in the victory over Watervliet: 29 points, six rebounds and six assists.
"She really plays flat out. My'Asia works so hard at both ends, and I just let her play," Hytko said. "She is relentless."
Tetrault brings a more cerebral approach.
"Bailei and My'Asia really compliment each other well," Hytko said. "Bailei can go fast or slow. She sees what works and goes with it." Even though they are the Tigers' top two scorers, both Alston and Tetrault said their favorite thing to do is pass. I get more of a thrill making a great pass than scoring two points," Tetrault said.
Hytko classifies Gibbs and McDonald as the team's "unsung heroes." Gibbs has scored in double figures three times and McDonald has tallied points in every game with a high of seven. "It is the rebounding and the defense those two have played that has really helped us," Hytko said of his 5-11 junior post tandem.
Beachamp has alternated between guard and forward, depending on which five players are on the floor. The senior's versatility has been a real asset. "She rebounds well and moves without the ball. She has really been important to our success," Hytko said. "Everyone is handling their roles well." "Without one person, we wouldn't be where we are," Tetrault said.
The organization would like to congratulate long time Saratoga Spark Megan Rogers. The 5’11” forward from Shenendehowa will be moving to Williamstown Massachusetts to attend classes and play basketball for Williams College. Williams is currently ranked 8th in a USA Today ESPN poll and has moved up from 13th to 12th in a D3Hoops national poll.
Rogers has excelled both on the hardwood and in the classroom in order to earn her opportunity to wear the purple and gold next season. Megan has a brilliant basketball resume which includes winning a Section II Championship in 2009 and playing a huge role in the Class AA State Championship game in 2010. She also lead her 2010 Sparks team to an eleventh place finish at the USA Invitational at Penn State University last summer.
We are all proud of Megan’s accomplishments as a member of the Saratoga Sparks and wish her the best as she moves into the college ranks. We would also like to thank her parents, Eileen and John, who have donated their time and talents over the years to help our organization grow in the right direction.
SCOTIA -- Cassie Broadhead earned the Foothills Council Most Valuable Player award as a freshman guard in 2010, and naturally that meant she was going to earn even more attention from opponents this season.
Broadhead is not scoring as much as she did during the 2009-10 campaign, but it has very little to do with any new defensive scheme or the added attention she now receives. It has everything to do with the improved play of senior center Danielle Conley and junior guard Sarah Janson. "The last few years, we were a strong team. I think our experience is helping us as Sarah, Cassie and myself are all in our third year," Conley said.
"Our teamwork has really stepped up this year. Everyone is so unselfish," Broadhead said. "Our main goal is to win. One of the easiest and best ways to do that is pass the ball."
The Tartans (11-0, 7-0) lead the Foothills Council standings and are ranked No. 8 in the state Class A poll.
Broadhead is on pace to score her 1,000th career point before the end of the season. She leads the team with averages of 16.5 points and 4.6 assists per game. Broadhead is also averaging 6.5 rebounds and 3.3 steals per outing.
“Cassie understands the game. When teams double-team her, she is making the extra pass," Scotia coach Regan Burns said. "Her game has elevated. All three of them have. You can't live and die with one player."
"When you have three players playing at their peak -- along with the role players playing well -- everything goes well and you succeed," Broadhead said.
Conley, who is averaging 11.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots per game, is a viable low-post threat.
"Danielle does so well on the boards and gets a lot of putbacks. She works hard for them," Burns said. "They look like easy points, but they are not. When she feels the pressure around her, see kicks the ball out to Cassie and Sarah."
In prior seasons, Janson would hesitate to shoot from the perimeter. Not anymore.
"I worked hard in the off-season to improve. I think the other part of it is teams are trying to shut down Cassie, so I'm getting more chances to be open," Janson said. Janson is averaging 13.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 4.5 steals per game.
"Her game was one-dimensional -- penetrate, penetrate, penetrate. This year, she can take the outside shot or go one dribble for the pull-up," Burns said. "She is much more dangerous. Teams would defend her just for the drive and now she is taking shots right in front of them."
"I think it is experience and confidence. I know I can make them. When some team is trying to shut down Cassie, I know I can step up and score," Janson said.
Scotia has never advanced beyond the Class A quarterfinals. Broadhead, Conley and Janson want to change that fact.
Emily Weber, Shen's junior guard has been named the first News Channel 13 All-Star. Emily is averaging 20 points and seven rebounds per game. She is Shen's leading scorer. Emily is a 3 year starter who helped lead Shen to the NYS Class AA finals last season. She has been playing for the Sparks since 5th grade and last year as a 15 year old participated in the National AAU tournament in Orlando.
WATERVLIET -- Lashana Tolliver has been a vital part of two Section II girls' basketball championship basketball teams at Watervliet, yet the talented 6-foot-1 sophomore center was never as committed to the team as she is this season.
"My first two years, I was immature and I wasn't really focused on basketball. I wanted to hang out with my friends and I didn't want to be in practice," Tolliver said. "Now every day, I'm ready to be in practice. I'm doing all my work in school just thinking about practice."
"It is just maturity. That is all it is," Watervliet coach Gordie Johnson said. "She is still only a sophomore playing on the varsity basketball team. She was a big part of what we did the last two years, but she didn't always understand she needed to work every single minute. Now she does. When she comes in here, she works every single minute."
Hard work first paid off over the summer for Tolliver, who played along with Watervliet sophomore guard Ailayia Demand on the Saratoga Sparks' squad that finished sixth in the country in July at the AAU Nationals in Orlando, Fla.
"I improved some of my post skills, I'm handling the ball better and I'm keeping the ball higher," Tolliver said.
Some of Tolliver's teammates on the Sparks included current varsity stars Syndie Rosales (Colonie), Jackie Welsh (Colonie), Madison Rowland (Shaker), Cassie Broadhead (Scotia) and Kelsey Cowell (Mohonasen).
"It is a great team -- one of the best AAU teams to come out of this area in a long time," Johnson said. "It opened her eyes to what else is out there and she knows there are a lot of other good players. I think she is starting to realize what it takes to get to the next level. Lashana's scratching the surface."
Before working her way back to the basketball court for Johnson, Tolliver played on the Watervliet JV football team at wide receiver.
"Nobody was for it: her mom or myself, but she really wanted to do it," Johnson said. "She actually caught a touchdown and my whole team was at the game. She dragged three kids from the 10-yard line into the end zone. The kids came running over to tell me. I think that experience helped her."
Tolliver has always been difficult to move in the paint, but she is even tougher physically now and is much more dedicated to her craft. The sophomore is averaging 13.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game for the Cannoneers (8-0), currently ranked No. 3 in the latest state Class B poll. Those averages could be even higher, but Watervliet has won several games by lopsided margins and that has cut into Tolliver's playing time.
"We're working as a team better. It is going to be a good season," Tolliver said. "I knew our team had potential. Now it is just showing." Johnson always knew Tolliver was a special player. His mission was to get her to believe it, and then put in the work necessary to realize her vast potential. Tolliver remembers Johnson's message was the same to her even when she was a reserve as an eighth-grader.
"I was scared of him at first, but I listened to everything he said," Tolliver said. "He kept telling me how good I could be, but that I needed to work harder. ... Me and coach have a strong relationship. I see him as a father figure and a coach. He teaches me a lot."
"She stepped into a starting job this year and Lashana was talented enough to start last year, but she wasn't mentally ready," Johnson said. "It is obvious to everybody she is ready now. I think she is one of the best post players in the area. I really do."
Even though he is quite pleased with Tolliver's progression, Johnson is not about to let up on the sophomore. And Tolliver would not want him to. "I'm very privileged to be on such a great team," Tolliver said. "I want to play in college, so I have keep my schoolwork up and stay out of the doghouse with coach Johnson."I think we made the right move bringing her up as an eighth-grader," Johnson said. "I only think Lashana has reached 50 percent of her potential. She has the ability to be a scholarship player, and she knows that now."
Reach James Allen at 454-5062 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Albany High freshman is in third varsity season By James Allen Staff Writer Updated:12:23 p.m., Tuesday, December 28, 2010
ALBANY -- One look at Breahanda Stratton is all it takes. Her eyes immediately reveal an insatiable desire to compete and Stratton, a third-year varsity performer with the Albany High girls' basketball team, yearns to excel at the game she loves.
And the versatile 6-foot standout, who can play, and dominate, all five positions on the floor is well on her way to achieving her objective. Stratton, who earned first-team Big 10 status and garnered second-team Large School All-Area selection by the Times Union as an eighth-grader, knows she has ability. She does not, however, view herself as an elite player.
"She doesn't consider herself that. It's just basketball to her," Albany assistant Decky Lawson said.
The biggest improvement Stratton has made isn't an improved jumper, a slick post move or even enhancements to her defensive skills. It is simply her approach.” I improved my attitude a lot. I used to be a hothead. I know that," Stratton said. "I think I have matured and become a leader for the team."
Albany went through the first half of the 2009-10 Big 10 schedule undefeated and appeared poised to capture the league title.
During the Falcons' second game against Catholic Central at Albany, Stratton picked up a foul early in the second quarter and argued with the official. She then pouted after coach Kelly Haggerty pulled her out of the game. Stratton did not return and the Crusaders easily won, and went on to secure the Big 10 title.
It was a bad moment for a 13-year-old, a low point in an otherwise strong second season.
This season, Stratton believes she is making the proper progression. So does Haggerty and Lawson.
"No doubt, 'Bre' has matured a ton this year. All she wants is winning a Big 10 title," Haggerty said. "She has truly taken being a leader to heart. 'Bre' works hard every day in practice. Everything is, 'yes coach' and she looks you in the eye. She was good last year, but she is so much better this year.
"I can't even put into words how much 'Bre' has grown. She's coachable. She wants to learn. She wants to grow. She wants to do what is best for the team."
"I see so much difference, even away from basketball, just having a conversation with her," Lawson said. "She asks a lot of questions and they are good questions."
A shining example of Stratton's improvement came Thursday night against Columbia. She reached her scoring average with a team-high 13 points in what turned out to be a 57-31 win. "Columbia threw a box-and-one at her, something that happened for the first time for Bre. It was a test mentally and she handled it," Haggerty said. "We have been moving her around because she is drawing more defensive attention, even to point guard to put the ball in her hands," Lawson said.
Stratton did not force shot attempts, nor did she get flustered by the increased defensive focus. But during a 24-second sequence in the fourth quarter, Stratton flashed her scary skill set to instantly score seven points.First, she raced from one corner to the other, caught a pass and immediately raised up to drill a 3-pointer. Stratton then stole the ball near midcourt and dribbled to the left elbow before dropping in a 10-foot teardrop.
After a quick miss by the Blue Devils, Stratton effortlessly worked the ball to the foul line as Columbia unsuccessfully attempted to press -- and with two defenders directly in front of her -- powerfully rose off the floor to net a 15-foot jumper. "The thing we're trying to get her to understand is when to turn it on and when to hold back a little bit. We don't want her giving away all of her secrets," Haggerty said. "She is still figuring it all out. Bre's physical ability is being matched by the mental ability."
Lawson, who starred at Albany High in football and basketball, marvels at how Stratton already is a skilled scorer, yet takes more pride in every other facet of her game.
"She is happier when she blocks shots, rebounds and get assists even though she knows she can score," Lawson said. "When she blocks a shot sometimes, she's high-fiving people like she won the game."
"That is what makes her so special," Haggerty said.
Another characteristic that sets Stratton apart is staying after each practice to take between 300 to 400 additional jump shots.
During the summer months, Stratton seeks out pick-up games with boys.
"I have to. It builds my confidence up," Stratton said. "I work on posting up and going to the hole."
"She's playing people better than her, instead of dominating against girls," said Haggerty, who helped lead Bishop Maginn to a state title during her senior season. "She wants to challenge herself."
James Allen can be reached at 454-5062 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Colonie star returns from surgery and playing well By James Allen Staff Writer Published: 12:00 a.m., Saturday, December 25, 2010
COLONIE -- Sydnie Rosales never envisioned basketball not being No. 1 for her, but the Colonie High standout also never dreamed she could ever be in so much pain. As an eighth-grade starter for the Garnet Raiders, Rosales went on a run during the second half of the season when double-doubles in points, rebounds or assists were the norm. Rosales was beginning to dominate in the area's best league, and doing so against state-ranked opponents filled with senior and junior stars. She was already special. But everything suddenly changed for Rosales.
She injured her back during a practice session late in her eighth-grade campaign and simply did not recover. "She struggled with simply playing basketball at that point with how hurt she was," Colonie coach Heather Fiore said. "She tried to hide it and tried to push through as any athlete would do. Finally, it was too much -- and she wanted it done." "I couldn't sleep. I couldn't walk straight. I couldn't walk without pain going down my legs. I couldn't walk most of the time and I couldn't lay on my back," Rosales said. "I tried to do physical therapy first, but it didn't do anything for me at all, so they suggested the surgery. I had to do it." Last year in November, after four months of therapy, surgery ended Rosales' pain. Amazingly, the 5-foot-9 star got clearance to return on Jan. 15, 2010. That night, she took the court for five minutes against Averill Park -- in what turned out to be a crushing 78-38 loss. Twenty-seven days later in a rematch at Colonie, Rosales showed just how special she is by playing all 32 minutes, mostly at point guard, and scoring a team-high 19 points in the Garnet Raiders' thrilling 63-62 triumph. "I like games like that, with an atmosphere like that Averill Park game," Rosales said. "I feel like that is when I'm at my best." "She is one of the best young players I've ever seen in the Suburban Council," Shenendehowa coach Ken Strube said of Rosales during the 2009-10 season. Rosales said she played the tail end of her freshman season at roughly 50 percent capacity. "It is scary how good Sydnie is. It is awesome to coach. The same thing with Tehresa (Coles, Colonie's senior standout who is headed to Siena in the fall)," Fiore said. "As a coach, you see them out on the court with their natural talent thinking 'They are so good.' Sydnie came to every practice and every game while she was out. It was good to miss it. You can see that passion is back." Slowly but surely, Rosales' strength and confidence for the game grew. During the summer, Rosales helped lead her team -- the Saratoga Sparks -- to a 43-3 record. All three of the team's losses came at the AAU Nationals in Orlando, Fla. when the Sparks finished sixth at the 14-and-under level. Rosales also garnered Most Valuable GymRat honors in June at the GymRat Challenge, a local tournament that is one of the country's biggest summer events. Fiore, who starred as a point at Queensbury before excelling at the collegiate level and winning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year honors as a senior at Canisius, decided to have Rosales open her sophomore season at point guard. "This is what I always wanted to do," Rosales said. "This is Tehresa's senior year and we want to make the best of it. I like having the ball in my hands and controlling what everyone else does." Rosales, who will turn 15 in March, possesses exceptional ball-handling skills, quickness off the dribble and is a deft passer. "When I first got back, I didn't want to go anywhere near the paint. Now, my body is strong and got into the weight room. I'm not afraid of the contact," Rosales said. Currently, Rosales is averaging 8.8 points, 4.2 assists and 3.8 steals per game for the Garnet Raiders (4-1), ranked No. 22 in the first state Class AA poll. No player in Section II, male or female, has better shooting range than Rosales -- and her 3-point shot is effortless. "She can shoot from anywhere on the court and she loves to shoot," Fiore said. "Her shots have not been falling as much this season. When they do, look out. One thing about her, she doesn't stop shooting. Most players her age would stop, but she knows they will start falling. For us as a team, we need her to keep shooting. Teams have to play her. It opens up things up inside. It opens the lane for Tehresa to drive." "I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'll get myself there," Rosales said. Fiore does not doubt Rosales will soon turns things around because of the two words she says willed the sophomore back and fuel her desire: "mental toughness." "There is no place I would rather be. I've been shooting foul shots since I was in kindergarten. Every day, I was shooting from as far away as I could," Rosales said. "Basketball is my comfort zone." "She will break out of her shooting slump. It isn't bothering her as much as it would someone else," Fiore said. James Allen can be reached at 454-5062 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Rosales-rebounds-on-court-919915.php#ixzz1AInzg3vc
Class AA runner-up finish has Shaker wanting more By JAMES ALLEN Staff Writer Published: 12:53 a.m., Saturday, December 11, 2010
LATHAM -- The transformation from also-ran to contender status yielded 11 more wins and nearly a Section II Class AA title for the Shaker High girls' basketball team in March. Coach Emily Caschera's second season with the Blue Bison saw them go from 6-15 in 2008-09 to 17-5 in 2009-10.
"It is really great how we came along. Coach Caschera has turned this program around," said Shaker junior center Lauren Woods, one of four returning starters. "As a team, we have very high expectations." Shenendehowa ultimately was the obstacle the Blue Bison could not overcome in 2009-10 -- losing all three meetings in close contests, including a 47-42 verdict in the Class AA title game.
And the Plainsmen beat Shaker again Tuesday, 50-42, in the 2010-11 season opener. The Blue Bison have already compartmentalized Tuesday's loss, and, unlike New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, Caschera and her players didn't bury Tuesday's game ball behind the school.
"It is who wins the last game, not the first," Shaker senior guard Adrianne Devine said.
"We know what we need to work on."
Asked what she thought the 2009-10 campaign did for her returning players, Caschera said, "I think they learned what winning is all about. They have the desire, and they want to do more." "I think last year definitely gave us the experience in the big games," Devine said.
"Last year and the year before, we weren't really thought of as a threat. We've made a name at Shaker and we want to add to it."
"We know we're not the underdogs anymore, but we also know that last year doesn't matter now," said Woods, a 2010 second-team, large-school all-area selection by the Times Union. Woods is joined up front by 6-foot-1 junior forward MacKenzie Rowland and 5-9 sophomore forward/guard Madison Rowland.
Devine, who is headed to Georgetown University on a lacrosse scholarship, now plays in the backcourt alongside senior Christine Alley, the team's lone new starter. The mission for the Blue Bison this season is to become the first Shaker team to win a Section II title since 1982.
Caschera and her players believe a Class AA title is an attainable objective, although they acknowledge teams like Shen, Colonie and Bethlehem to be formidable adversaries. "We feel we're close," Woods said. "We just have to keep working hard and do what we did last year, play our best at the end."
Rogers makes good things happen on field, court for Lady Plainsmen
Scholastic Profile Sunday, October 31, 2010 By Jim Schiltz (Contact) Gazette Reporter
Megan Rogers is an offensive threat with a stick in her hands, and a defensive force without one. It just depends on the season, and the sport she’s playing. “I have different roles. In field hockey, I’m a scorer. In basketball, my game is defense. That’s what I’m good at,” the Shenenendehowa High School senior said. “I love doing the dirty work.” That willingness to dig in has been a big part of her success this fall. Despite constant harrassment and some double-team eforts, Rogers has piled up 21 goals, including 12 in Shenendehowa’s last seven games.
“She worked a lot in the offseason to become better and stronger, and it’s paid off. She’s having a great year, an unbelievable year,” said Shenendehowa field hockey coach Jeanne Frevola. “Imagine if she concentrated on just field hockey. She’d be scary.”
Rogers’ grit and court smarts helped Shenendehowa win a Section II basketball title last winter, and the 17-year-old is doing her best to lead the school to another crown this fall with hard, accurate drives and feeds to her teammates. The forward scored two goals and set up another Thursday, and the Lady Plainsmen took their first step with a 7-0 sectional quarterfinal win against Bethlehem.
“She’s had the hot hand. She’s been coming through for us,” said Frevola of the four-year varsity performer. “She’s been a big part of our run.”
Rogers’ scoring binge has helped Shenendehowa win 11 straight games. As Shenendehowa closed in on the Suburban Council championship, she delivered two goals in key victories over heavyweights Saratoga Springs and Niskayuna, and collected three in the second half as the Lady Plainsmen came from behind to avoid an upset against BC.
“I didn’t put a number in my head when the season started, but after I scored two in our first game, I thought, maybe, I could have a big year,” said Rogers, who does most of her damage in close quarters. “I thought, maybe I could have the kind of year like Mandy Ferro had.”
Ferro was the goal-scoring leader on Shenendehowa’s 2008 Section II championship edition, with 18. Rogers contributed three goals that year as a promising midfielder.
Rogers got an opportunity to display her own touch when she was moved to a forward spot last year. The right-hander upped her total to ll goals, and knocked in both goals when Shenendehowa beat Niskayuna in overtime, 2-1, for its signature win
While certainly an improved player this year, Rogers also gives plenty of credit to her teammates for her increased offensive production.
“The most notable thing over the past couple of games is the girls who played JV last year are starting to play great. That’s really helped me and Mary Kate [Cusack] and the other forwards,” said Rogers. “They’re getting the ball up to us with great passes, and we’re getting a lot more opportunities to work for goals. A lot of it is coming from our midfielders and defense.”
Rogers is a giver, as well, showing eight assists to go along with her big goal total.
“She’s definitely a team player,” Frevola said of Rogers, a co-captain along with Courtney Howard. “A lot of times she could score herself, but she’ll pass it off. Other times, when she’s facing a double team, it’s just the right thing to do, and she’ll get the ball to an open player.”
Columbia’s defense was leaving few players open when Rogers came off the bench and scored a tying goal with two minutes left in what would be a 2-1 overtime win. Sore shin splints had the senior resting before she provided Shenendehowa with one of its most dramatic goals of the season.
“With about 10 minutes left, I had to put my cleats back on,” said Rogers. “I was thinking, ‘I can’t go in there and not do something.’”
“I think because of her toughness, skill and determination, she’s maybe one of the top two or three field hockey players in Section II,” said Shenendehowa basketball coach Ken Strube. “If I’m in a tight game, I definitely want Meg on my side.”
Shenendehowa was in a close tussle with Shaker’s basketball team last season when Rogers sank the biggest basket of her scholastic career, a last-second, foul line jumper that gave the Lady Plainsmen a 49-47 win.
“It was awesome,” said Rogers. “When my relatives come up, my parents always show them the tape. I’ve seen it so many times. It’s so much fun watching my team’s reaction when I make it.”
Strube will have the services of the 5-foot-10 forward soon for a third varsity season.
“I’m really excited about basketball this year. We should have a good team,” said the academic and athletic star. “But first things first. There’s still some work to do this season.”
Shenendehowa will look to add to its 15 wins when it hosts Queensbury in a Section II semifinal Wednesday. Rogers’ exploits at the defensive end, her clutch points and plenty of rebounds were an essential part of a successful mix that led to 22 wins last winter, and 13 in a row before Shenendehowa’s loss in the state title game.
“She’ll go down in history as one of a half dozen of the best defensive players in our program’s history,” said Strube. “In the middle of our press, she’s just tremendous. There’s been probably only one or two others who were better at that in my coaching lifetime.”
Rogers averaged seven points, nine rebounds and four steals as a junior, but those numbers tell only a small portion of her contribution to the program.
“Her primary role was to shut down the others team’s best player, and she did it well. She’s such a hard worker,” said Strube. “She guarded bigger players, 6-2 and 5-10 players, and she guarded point guards, too. I’ll be calling on her again. She won’t get any nights off. She gets all the tough jobs.”
That includes rebounding. Rogers is awfully good at it, and time and again in her career she’s sprung a fast break with a crisp outlet after snaring the ball.
“Meg is a fundamenalist,” said Strube. “She’ll put a body on the person she’s guarding, and say, ‘You’re not going to get the ball. She won’t always get the rebound, but neither will the other player because they’re blocked out so well.”
“I get satisfaction from the achievement,” said Rogers. “Doing the dirty work isn’t real glamorous, but you know when you do a good job, and your teammates know. It’s a good feeling.”
The Saratoga Sparks 14 year old Orange team was featured on the Fox23 new cast last night, much to the delight of the organization, the players, their parents and their coach. The team, made up of high school freshmen, traveled to Orlando in mid-July to participate in the 2010 AAU Nationals. When the dust settled in the Sunshine State, the Sparks stood tall, finishing the tournament with a 5-3 record, which secured them a sixth place finish in the forty team field.
On Monday night the team made their prime time debut, and sources close to the Nielson ratings reported that during the two minute documentary, rating on ESPN’s Monday Night Football dipped below their average draw.
The Sparks 16 Orange team traveled to Marion Massachusetts this past weekend to complete in the 2010 Northeast Elite Fall Ball College Showcase. The tournament was well attended by college coaches from all over the Northeast and the Sparks made sure that each coach got to see what they were looking for. Cohoes Seniors Bailei Tetrault and Danielle Beauchamp scored 37 and 35 points respectively during the four game weekend to lead the Sparks scoring attack while Shenendehowa Seniors Mandi Edick and Megan Rogers combined for 50 points while leading the rebounding effort.
Niskayuna standout Ashely McCaughan scored 12 points during the Sparks 51-42 victory over the CT Cobras while Shaker’s Mallory Dickson’s soft touch from beyond the arc help propel the Sparks to a 47-45 victory over the CT Premier. Contributions were also made by Burnt Hills senior forward Kelly Maher who made 9 of 10 from the free throw line. Shenendehowa Junior Chrisanne Pierson and Holy Names Junior Kylie Small played quality minutes, each spending time playing guard, forward and center.
Sparks Finish 11th at the Penn State USA Invitational
The Saratoga Sparks 16U team traveled to State College PA this past week and finished up their 2010 campaign by finishing 11th out of the 64 teams in the Southern Bracket of the Bluechip USA Invitational Tournament. The Sparks finished with a 4-2 record while turning the heads of many college coaches.
Niskayuna’s Ashley McCaughan, Shenendehowa’s Megan Rogers and Mandi Edick and Queensbury’s Alexis Perryman were all named game MVP’s.
The week was terrific for the Sparks who spent much of the season being haunted by their coach about the importance of winning the first game of the tournament. Pressure was applied at every practice and a website was created as a constant reminder that winning the first game at Penn State would split the tournament field in half, assuring the Sparks games against the best competition in their bracket.
The pressure paid dividends, not only did the Sparks beat Spain 41-29 in the first round, but they dumped the PA Thunder 57-37 in the second game on their way to securing a 4-2 tournament record and an 11th place finish.
There were several outstanding performances during the six game tourney. Niskayuna’s Ashley McCaughan, Shenendehowa’s Megan Rogers and Mandi Edick and Queensbury’s Alexis Perryman were all named game MVP’s. Putting individual efforts aside, it was a complete team effort. The guard play of McCaughan, Cohoes’s Bailei Tetrault, Scotia’s Kalia Sanboeuf and Shenendehowa’s Maggie Smith produced scoring opportunities and applied pressure defense in every game. They were the sparks that started the engine.
Cohoes’s Danielle Beauchamp, and Scotia’s Danielle Conley were able to contribute at multiple positions providing scoring, rebounding and fast break opportunities that more often then not provided the Sparks with leads or slammed the door shut on their opponents.
Burnt Hill’s Junior Kelly Maher played the best ball of the season at Penn State providing solid defense and much needed rebounding. The post was covered between Ballston Spa’s Taylor Whyte and Shaker’s Mallory Dickson. The two battled in every game and gave the Sparks the strength in the middle that was necessary to make a successful run at Penn State.
Over all the week was fantastic. The Sparks played great and displayed confidence in themselves and their teammates that turned the heads of many college coaches watching. As the coaching staff stressed all season, “College coaches are looking for players that display a love and respect for the game, their teammates and themselves, players that a college coach would want to spend four years with" shared Coach Fazio. “I’m certain that there are coaches this morning preparing letters of interest with their names on them. In our last game together against the Hunterdon United, every player scored and it was a complete team victory, it should serve as a great memory for you of this team and its many accomplishments. You were all presented with a great opportunity this season to shine and you all made the most of it, particularly this past week.” shared Coach Turner
Coach’s Note: I would also like to thank each of your parents for their support of this team. The "TEAM" concept did not end with the players. It carried off the court, and on to the streets. It was refreshing to watch your parents enjoy the success of the team and not just focus on individual accomplishments. If you haven't done so... they deserve a big hug and an "I love you" After all, I hugged most of them Wednesday night at Champs during the team party so it wouldn't kill you to hug them as well.
The Saratoga Sparks 14U basketball team took sixth place in the 2010 AAU Girls Basketball National Championship Tournament held July 6-10 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida. The team is comprised of Section II freshmen players who finished their regular AAU season undefeated with 30 wins. At the National Tournament, the Sparks were 5 and 3 against a field of 40 of the best teams in the United States. The Sparks are the first local team in recent memory to finish this high in the AAU National Championship Tournament. The Sparks advanced all the way to the Elite Eight round.
The Sparks had qualified for the Nationals by winning a Super Regional tournament and became one of only two local girls AAU team to ever win the prestigious GymRat tournament held earlier in the year.
The Sparks beat teams from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and two from Pennsylvania. Outstanding players at the tournament were; Sydney Rosales and Madison Rowland, who scored a total of 87 and 83 points respectively; Madison Rowland who had 39 steals, Cassie Broadhead with 42 rebounds, and Ailaiya Demand who had a team high 25 assists; and, whose two free throws with .8 seconds left gave the Sparks a one point victory.
The trip to the Nationals was made possible in large part by contributions by area residents and businesses. More information on the National Tournament can be found at http://aaugirlsbasketball.org.
Long time Saratoga Spark Kayla Wheeler will be playing college basketball at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The 5’11” forward graduated from Shenendehowa High School with grades that placed her at the top of her class. Her college choice was very simple, “All I want to do is get a great education and continue to wear the colors that have helped me become a better player, teammate and citizen” shared the lanky soon to be college freshman. Kayla will soon be starting her college career wearing Sparks orange for the TIgers of RIT.
Local fans and family where thrilled to learn that RIT will soon be competing in the Liberty League against local power houses RPI, Union and Skidmore.
Not only did Kayla play six seasons with the Saratoga Sparks, but she also spent her senior year as an assistant coach, helping the Sparks 16U team to a very successful season. We wish Kayla and her family the very best and look forward to rooting for RIT when they are in the area.
Shenendehowa High School’s Marissa Ray has decided to attend Union College this fall. The 6’0” guard will be playing basketball for the Dutchman next season and is looking forward to playing college ball in front of the home crowd. While long time Sparks teammate and Niskayuna center Katie Cocca will be packing her bags and heading off to play basketball for theCollege of Saint Benedict in St. John’s Minnesota.
The dynamic duo have played together with the Sparks since the 5th grade and they have clearly hit the books, both attending fine institutions with great reputations for academics.
We wish Marissa, Katie and their families the best of luck and thank them for their contributions to the program.
Gym Ray Challenge Website: The Saratoga Sparks 14-under division team came to Sunday's games at the GymRat Challenge tournament without its head coach as Tony Mingione missed the event for a family function, and without one of its better players, whose opts not to play in Sunday games due to religious reasons.
But those seeming handicaps did nothing to derail the championship run of the Saratoga Sparks, who used strong overall team play and a well-designed strategy to advance to Sunday night's championship contest of the 6th annual GymRat CHALLENGE for girls where it earned a 56-40 victory over the New York Gauchos.
Sydnie Rosales, who just finished her freshman year at Colonie High School, was named the age bracket's MVG (Most Valuable GymRat) for her strong overall game, her composure at the guard spot against difficult pressure defense, and for coming up big down the stretch by scoring five of her team's final nine points as the Sparks held off the Gauchos.
"This was a big deal for us to win in our home area," said Rosales. "A lot of people think there aren't good teams locally, but we wanted to prove we were a good team."
The Sparks showed just that with a strong display of team-oriented play throughout the event as 20-year old Serita Holland, who aspires to a career in coaching, took over the coaching reins on Sunday's second day of the tournament. The team also overcame the loss of Cassie Broadhead of Scotia-Glenville H.S., who skips Sunday games for religious reasons. "We've played other tournaments this year without her on Sundays ... we know she's not going to play on that day," said Holland. "It's not a big deal for us."
It probably didn't hurt the champions to see a relatively familiar foe in the championship game. The Sparks matched up with the Gauchos in another tournament on the AAU circuit earlier this spring and knocked them off there too.
Sunday's play made it appear like the Sparks had a solid strategy for success again in the return meeting. They packed the lane defensively against a taller and more-athletic Gauchos team and, then, pushed the ball offensively at every opportunity. The result was that the Gauchos had to foul to stop the Sparks' fast-break drives to the basket, and the Gauchos wound up shooting 21 free throws (to 10 for the Gauchos). The Saratoga team made 16 of its 21 free-throw attempts.
"We felt pretty confident coming in because we had beaten them before," added Rosales. "And the way we played is the way we like to play. We like to run and push the ball, and that worked tonight." Rosales said the tournament title was a little extra special coming on its home turf. "It definitely is nice to win when you play in your home area," she added. "We love it when people we know can come out and watch us have success."
Gym Ray Challenge Website: Congratulations to Sydnie Rosales (not pictured) for being named the 2010 Most Valuable GymRat. She brought calm to the court, particularly against a pressing defense applied by the New York Gauchos in the event's championship game. Her smooth play was on display here. She is good in transition, advancing the ball very well. Has exceptional range, even beyond the 3-point stripe.
Coming off an injury plagued season at Colonie, but looks to be back to full health. Showed an ability to dominate games when she plays with intensity. Her size and ability she exhibits marks her a potential future Division I recruit.
Also collecting were Cassie Broadhead, Mackenzie Rowland and Brehenda Stratton who were all selected to the GymRat All Tournament Team, while Lauren Woods, Emily Weber, Mary Kate Cusack, Ailayia Demand and Madison Rowland were all named Honorable mentions.
Saratoga Springs, New York – What a difference a week makes... This weekend the Saratoga Sparks participated in their home tournament, the Thoroughbred Classic. The last chance for each college bound Junior to enjoy a little home cooking before heading to Rockland County and Penn State to finish up their AAU season. It was also a chance for their parents to enjoy one last go around at the concession stand and the admissions table... all fond memories by the close of Sunday.
The first game of the weekend pitted the home town team against the Lady Knicks of Utica. The game was not much of a contest. The Sparks ran out quick to a double digit lead and never looked back. Ashley McCaughan scored a team high eleven points including nine steal, while teammate Alexis Perryman added nine points. Danielle BeauCHAMP was perfect from beyond the arc snapping both of her attempts. Mallory Dickson lead the Saratoga Sparks with seven rebounds as the Sparks ran away from the Knicks 51-19.
That game would be the last laugher of the tournament. The Orange County Crusaders were next on the schedule and they offered both size and experience. The Sparks played solid most of the game but had several short issues with turnovers and committing to the offense, but when they were committed and focused on protecting the basketball they looked sharp. Mandy "Sunshine" Edick lead the Sparks with 10 points and Ashley McCaughan collected seven rebounds while Kalia Sanboeuf collected four steals to help their team to a hard fought 36-33 victory over the Crusaders.
"I was pretty happy with the way the girls played today" shared Coach Turner. "Our new offense gave us good scoring opportunities, both inside and out... our only problem was we did have people running their own versions of the offense... when you need a basket in a close game its critical that the five players on the court are working together to get the job done... this will be the only way we will succeed at Penn State... together"
After a fairly quiet Saturday afternoon, the 2-0 Sparks took the court on Sunday morning to face the Finger Lake Fury and the Lady Sizzlers from Waverly. Both teams were talented and would offer the Sparks all they could handle.
The Fury game was one of those edge of your seat affairs, a low scoring, defensive battle that would make any fan of basketball sit and take notice. The Sparks held a steady five point lead through much of the first half, but with 4:15 remaining the Fury took advantage of a few poorly time turnovers and took a one point lead with three seconds left on the game clock. After that basket, the ball was quickly inbounded to Ashley McCaughan who calmly took aim at a target about 65' away from her... you know, one of those last second shots that players heave up in the air with hopes of it snapping the net, if you've seen it once you seen it a hundred time... well, you rarely see this... the 5'2" guard took her shot and snapped the net from 65' giving the Sparks a two point half time lead.
"I had my down by one half time speech all ready to go and then I had to change direction and give the we're up by two speech" offered Coach Fazio.
In the second half the Sparks worked hard a gained a 41-36 victory over the Fury. Mandy Edick scored a game high eleven points while teammate Alexis Perryman scored another nine. Taylor Whyte, Danielle Conley and Mallory Dickson each collected seven rebounds to help the Sparks dominate the glass on both ends of the court.
The last game of the weekend was a wild one. Once again the Sparks fell victim to turnovers, turning a five point lead into a five point deficit with only :12 seconds remaining to play. That's when Mandi Edick stepped up and drained a three pointer from the top of the key to cut the lead to two. After a quick time out the Sparks fouled the first kid they could find and hoped against hope that they would miss at least one of the charity shots.
The Sparks got what they were looking for, a three point deficit with less than five seconds to play. With no time to spare the Sparks got the ball up the court and found Ashley McCaughan and once again hoped for a little magic. Ashely made one ball fake, took a step to her right and let the ball fly from beyond the arc... the buzzer sounded and the ball kissed the glass and snapped the net, tying the score at 44.
"I knew the shot was good as soon as it left my hand" shared McCaughan, "If Mandi missed her shot this one wouldn't have meant anything" the humble guard continued.
The Sparks went on the defeat the Sizzlers 49-47 in overtime. McCaughan scored a game high twelve points while Bailei Tetrault scored ten and Danielle Conley chipped in six. Taylor Whyte collect seven hard fought rebounds. The Sparks finished the tournament 4-0 and improved their overall record to 10-9.
The Sparks had a pretty good weekend shooting 31% from the floor, 29% from behind the arc and 67% from the free throw line.
Saratoga, New York. - 2010 looks to be a very exciting year for the Saratoga Sparks. With open auditions behind them the young college bound juniors are looking to make their last year of AAU basketball as meaningful as possible.
The Sparks goal of this season is very simple, to improve the skill and confidence level of each player while giving each the opportunity to play basketball in front of a variety of college coaches. This season is the last AAU experience for this group of Sparks, their last chance to travel with friends and family, their last chance to compete at several familiar venues, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and of course Penn State. After this season each of the players will (or in some cases, might) enjoy one more year of varsity basketball and then it’s off to college…. and then quickly after that the job market…
Saratoga, New York. - 2010 looks to be a very exciting year for the Saratoga Sparks. With open auditions behind them the young college bound juniors are looking to make their last year of AAU basketball as meaningful as possible.
The Sparks goal of this season is very simple, to improve the skill and confidence level of each player while giving each the opportunity to play basketball in front of a variety of college coaches. This season is the last AAU experience for this group of Sparks, their last chance to travel with friends and family, their last chance to compete at several familiar venues, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and of course Penn State. After this season each of the players will (or in some cases, might) enjoy one more year of varsity basketball and then it’s off to college…. and then quickly after that the job market…
This is why the 2010 Sparks will be entering the season with four very simple goals: First, work on aspects of each players game that need quick improvement, second, identify ways of drawing attention to their individual strengths. Third, keeping competitive in every game to allow playing time to stay balanced while keeping the attention of any college representatives in attendance. And last, but not least, have as much fun as humanly possible.
The Sparks schedule this season is very challenging. With road trips to four major events including the Coaches Choice USA challenge at Fordham University, the Cortland Shootout, The Commotion by the Ocean at the University of Rhode Island and the season finally the USA Blue Chip Invitational at Penn State University.
Quick translation: Great Italian food in the Bronx, a great steak house in western New York, lobster rolls in Newport and the best bacon you have ever had at State College.
The local schedule features the Gym Rat Challenge, and the Albany Spring Classic both at nearby Siena College, and of course the Thoroughbred Challenge.
As for winning and losing, “There is only one game I want to win this year” shared coach Frank Fazio. “And each year it’s the same game, July 5th at Penn State”
The Penn State tournament is structured unlike the traditional AAU tournament. The Sparks will play a game on July 5th, if they win, they will be placed in the winners bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Basically playing with the top 50% for the field, if they lose, they will be starting off in the losers bracket, the key word there being “losers”.
“We will be preparing all season for this one game, it’s huge for us, if I’m driving four and a half hours thought Amish country on the 4th of July weekend, you better believe I’m serious about winning our first round game... we are going to win this game… we have to” offered coach Turner. “I don’t plan on spending any sad nights at Mad Mex’s bar in the lobby of the Day Inn on Pugh Street, we will prepare, we will go, we will win and we will be seen… that’s the plan”