Such was the case for the Sawyer girls, who closed out the season with a 4-10 overall record with a 2-4 divisional clip. Still, the means by which they gained a bid was proven sound when Saugerties upset Marlboro with a 48-47 win in the opening round of the Section IX, Class A tournament.
The sixth-ranked Sawyers weren’t even supposed to put up much of a fight against the number three-seeded Dukes, having been blown out by the team earlier in the season. Even the girls on the team were unsure of how they’d fare on Marlboro’s home court on Monday, February 28.
“When my coach texted us telling the team it was Marlboro, I was like, ‘Oh, crap,’” said senior forward/center Rebecca Curley. “We lost to them by twentyish when we played them in the beginning of the season.”
Senior guard/forward Emily Rowan agreed.
“Honestly, going into the game I was nervous,” she said. “I didn’t really know how the game was going to go, but I knew that they were expecting to do what they did earlier in the season which was crush us.”
Instead, the Sawyers led throughout most of the game, thanks to a stifling defense and some prodigious shooting. It didn’t hurt that the Dukes committed 29 turnovers and missed 15 free throws, though much of the credit should go to a Saugerties team who answered the door when opportunity came knocking.
“Everything was just turned on that game,” Curley said. “We shot well, boxed out, executed our plays and played defense. That game really showed what Saugerties basketball is capable of doing. Beating Marlboro was our biggest accomplishment.”
The Sawyers jumped out to an early 8-0 lead midway through the first quarter, and they headed into the final frame up 36-30. It was there that Marlboro began to claw their way back, leaving the Sawyers looking at another late game fade the likes of which plagued them all season long.
“I feel like the team played alright during the regular season,” Curley said. “We lost a few really close games, which was a bummer.”
This time around, Saugerties showed their mettle, coming up with the win despite finding themselves suddenly down by six with a minute to play.
“In the fourth, they got some offensive rebounds and took us out of our game with their press,” said head coach Steve Buonfiglio. “But we never quit.”
After sophomore forward Hayley Spoljaric nailed a three-point shot, the Sawyers’ own pressing defense led to a Marlboro turnover when sophomore guard Taylor Lynch deflected a pass to junior guard Jamie Whittam. Then, with five seconds remaining and the team down by two, Rowan drove to the basket, drew the defense and kicked the ball out to junior guard Martene Henriksen, who drilled a three point shot that broke Marlboro’s back.
“I don’t think I’ve ever screamed and cheered so loud at a basketball game, and then Martene made her three and the entire Saugerties team and fans went crazy,” said Curley. “It was such a good feeling. Especially going in there and everyone thinking Marlboro was going to win. We came to play and that’s exactly what we did.”
“It was a feeling you can’t explain,” she said. “Saugerties’ varsity girls haven’t won a sectional game in 10 years, and it felt amazing being part of a win that big. We earned it. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we worked hard and we deserved it.”
Rowan led the Sawyers with 17 points, while Spoljaric added 14.
Spoljaric, who unlike her senior teammates will return next season to help build upon the team’s sectional showing, credited the wisdom of her coach and the strength of her fellow Sawyers.
“We all went into that game with a positive attitude,” she said. “Coach said to us, ‘Whatever happens happens. Just play your hardest and we’ll go from there.’ We knew how much that game meant to Coach and us as a team. We did it for each other. After pulling a win out as crazy as that one the only thing I can say is we stuck together like a team. If we didn’t play as a team I don’t think we could’ve won. The game itself was a team effort. No matter how much playing time each teammate received we couldn’t have done it without them. I appreciate every single person on the team.”
“Martene really did a great job defending their leading scorer throughout the game,” he said. “She was a hero even before the last shot, and Emily had a great all around game; she deserves many accolades for her performance. Everyone contributed, from the JV call-ups who helped us prepare right on up through the entire roster. (Marlboro) had killed us on the boards in December; Taylor Snyder and Anita Etheridge really stepped up to that challenge, the whole team did. Katharine Greco and Nickie Voerg played great defense to contribute. Becca Curley and Angela Moynihan were hurt but they were so supportive from
The Cinderella story was short lived, as the Sawyers lost 55-38 in the second round to Wallkill. Spoljaric led the Sawyers with 12 points, while Rowan pitched in with nine.
“After the loss at Wallkill, it was pretty difficult to see basketball come to an end,” Curley said. “The team has been together since my sophomore year, plus or minus a few. So it was a really sad locker-room talk and tears where streaming everywhere. Everyone was sad and bummed that the season was over.”
Buonfiglio said the team’s performance against Marlboro will be the lasting memory from the 2010-11 season rather than the loss to Wallkill.
“It made our year and it’s something to build on for next season,” he said. “There is no better feeling than to see everyone hugging. I personally want to thank everyone who contributed so Saugerties could
have sports this year; the whole community is a part of that moment of elation.”
Asked what it was like to have to see the season come to an end, Buonfiglio looked back, as well as forward.
“It’s always hard for me, especially this year though,” he said. “Like the Brooklyn Dodgers of old: Wait ‘til next year.”
The boys team
The boys went into the sectionals hoping to avenge an early season loss to New Paltz, during which they committed 27 turnovers and still fell by just three points. This time around, Saugerties lost 51-36, wrapping up a season of promise which failed to materialize in the playoffs.
“Going into sectionals, I felt the team was going to go far,” said senior guard Connor Hicks. “We knew we could beat them because our team really had come a long way since that (regular season) game. But we just had an absolutely atrocious game shooting the ball and they shot lights out. There’s going to be games like that sometimes, and if you don’t play great in sectionals, you’re going to lose. That’s what happened.”
Senior forward Jon Hindes scored seven points to lead the Sawyers in defeat.
Nick Gruccio, a senior guard, said the team played like they were intimidated by the postseason atmosphere.
“I feel like the team kind of got a little scared going into the game because we were kind of young and most of our team hasn’t been in a playoff environment,” he said. “I feel like our team hustled hard but I know it wasn’t our best game.”
Hicks said he doesn’t have any regrets about how the season shook out.
“We didn’t do as great as we hoped we would, but it was still a fun season,” he said. “Obviously I wish things had turned out a little differently, but that’s life. We played well at home and always gave fans a good show. It was a fun year.”
Both Hicks and Gruccio said they feel the future is bright for the Sawyers, who while losing seven seniors to graduation this June, will also return a solid, youthful group of players in 2011-12.
“If I can say one thing to the younger players it would be play every game like it’s your last, to never let up and to get better every day,” Gruccio said.
Hicks said that he hopes the Sawyers will continue to succeed and will make Ray Wright regret transferring to Red Hook before the beginning of this season when they face off next year.
“We all know how great this team is going to be in years to come, and we’re still gonna be like supportive brothers when they’re up at UCCC winning MHAL’s and dominating Sectionals, hopefully sticking it to that super senior across the river,” he said.
Hicks will now his athletic attention to the links, which before long should be completely snow-free.
“I golf throughout the spring and summer,” he said. “It makes me feel like an old NBA veteran who retires and moves to Florida to golf for the rest of his life.”