The Saugerties High School varsity girls basketball team finished their regular season last week at 13-5, closing out the final week with three crucial wins over tough opponents. With two weeks between their last regular season game and the beginning of the playoffs, the Sawyers are maintaining their momentum with practices, scrimmages, and crossover competition.
The Section IX seeding meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 26, with the postseason beginning two days later. In the meantime, coaches like the Sawyers’ Heather Fanelli are working on general preparedness until they’re able to focus on the challenges of a specific opponent. Still, it’s hard not to wonder who they’ll face off against first and whether they’ll do so in their home gym.
“We’re going through our regular season games and our non-league games and trying to calculate where we would be situated,” said Fanelli. “People are projecting a million different things but nobody knows for sure.”
What is known is that the Sawyers have been one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch, outpacing much larger schools and traditionally much tougher opponents. Most recently, Saugerties closed out the regular season on Friday, February 14 by dismantling Newburgh Free Academy 55-34 on the road. The Sawyers exerted their dominance early and often, taking a 28-10 lead into halftime.
Sage Fanelli led all scorers with 20 points in 23 minutes, with two rebounds, two steals and an assist. Also contributing were Vaiden Ferraro (8 points, steal) Christie Collins (7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, steal), and Julia Quinlan (5 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, block). 10 Sawyers scored at least two points in the lopsided win.
One night earlier, Saugerties eviscerated Highland 52-21, again racing out to an early lead with a 19-3 advantage heading into the second quarter. The smothering Sawyer defense held the home team to a 6-for-54 night from the field. Collins (12 points, 3 rebounds, assist, block), Fanelli (9 points, 2 steals, assist, rebound), Quinlan (9 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, block), Kaylie Quinn (8 points, 4 rebounds, block) and Renee Baldwin (7 points, 2 rebounds, assist, steal) made major contributions.
But perhaps the most impressive win of the week was a senior night 66-56 victory over Marlboro on Tuesday, February 11, one which saw the Sawyers in the rare position of having to come back from an early deficit. After trailing 15-9 in the first quarter, Saugerties got better as the game progressed, outscoring Marlboro 57-41 over the remainder of the game.
Collins (6 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists) and Fanelli (2 rebounds, 2 assists) each scored 20 to lead the Sawyers against Marlboro, with Quinlan (12 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals, assist) and Erin Dudzic (10 points, 7 assists, 4 steals, 3 rebounds) also pitching in.
“To beat Marlboro was, to me, the most important win of last week,” said Coach Fanelli. “We’d lost to them early in the season. (The February 11 win) was senior night, our girls got to play in front of the home crowd, and for all of our seniors it was their last hurrah at home in front of their parents. So it was a really big deal to beat a team that might be number one in their division.”
While Fanelli said her team was tired after the wild week, they returned to practice quickly to prepare for the rigors of the postseason, which will be a wholly new experience for some of the younger players.
“Many of my kids have never been to a sectional (playoff) game before,” she said. “It will be a new experience for them. Once they get there they might be nervous realizing the enormity of it, but it’s hard to explain that to them until they’ve done it. (Some of) the kids are so young that they don’t even quite grasp what it means to be here. It’s a daily conversation about why we’re here, why we’re still practicing, and what it means to get to this point.”
The Sawyers stayed active by hosting Rondout Valley in a scrimmage on Wednesday, February 19, and they’ll travel to Red Hook for a crossover game one week later.
Three members of the team were recently selected as all-Mid-Hudson Athletic League players, including Sage Fanelli, Christie Collins and Erin Dudzic.