CANTON — The Cambridge Indians have a pretty complete girls basketball team — height, quickness, inside presence and outside shooters.
They also press like nobody’s business — tight defense, hands everywhere, snagging steals and generally creating mayhem.
Locked in a tight game with Madrid-Waddington in Saturday’s Class C regional final, the Indians executed a six-minute clinic of pressure defense to start the second quarter, forcing eight turnovers in a 16-0 run on the way to a 60-36 victory at SUNY Canton.
The win put the Indians (25-1) into the State Girls Basketball Tournament final four for the first time since 1999 — before any of the current players were born.
“I was just thinking about that this morning, how none of us seniors were even alive yet,” Indians center Helen Mooney said. “It’s crazy that it was that long ago, and how exciting this is and how great it is for the town. It’s been really amazing.”
“I’m so happy for these girls,” Indians coach Tony Bochette said. “They’re such a hard-working group of girls, they deserve every moment of this, and hopefully they get to enjoy the whole weekend next week.”
Freshman Sophie Phillips scored 17 points and Mooney added 15 points and nine rebounds to lead Cambridge, which is scheduled to face Millbrook on Friday at 10 a.m. in the state semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College.
Madrid-Waddington (19-5) hung tight with the Indians for one quarter, trailing 14-12, but Cambridge turned that around with its 19-4 blitz through the second quarter.
“We didn’t know whether or not we could do our normal pressure because they’re a really athletic and quick team,” Bochette said. “I said, ‘Let’s see if we can extend it with the press, and if we can’t, we’ll pull off real quick and we’ll still be up. It’s been our M.O. all year — to create some pressure, create some chaos and easy hoops, and it really worked to our advantage again today.”
“When we started pressuring them, we kept getting steals and that helped us get wide-open layups,” freshman Lilly Phillips said.
“One of our strengths is coming out really quickly,” Mooney said. “That’s something we’ve been building over the season, that fast tempo.”
Senior guard Bridey Nolan knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to help spark the Indians’ big run — one of them a 24-footer.
“When I first shot that, I was like, ‘Uh-oh, Bochette’s going to yell at me,’” Nolan said with a laugh.
Nolan, who scored 12 points on four 3-pointers, and Bochette both said the key was the Indians’ inside-to-outside approach to offense Saturday.
“Sometimes we rely on our perimeter to open up our interior,” Bochette said. “Today it was the opposite, let’s use the interior to open up the perimeter, and it worked.”
“Inside-out opens me up,” Nolan said. “I’m not much of a driver to the lane, so when they work inside-out, they can kick it out to me and I can hit it, and it also takes pressure off the Mooneys (Helen and Fiona) and the (Phillips) twins.”
The Indians kept pouring it on in the third quarter, opening a 43-16 lead with a 10-0 run — eight points by Sophie Phillips — to start the second half.
“Our main focus coming in was using our length to our advantage today — rebounding, using that to get out and push, and making sure we work our offense through the interior today,” Bochette said.
Freshman Fiona Mooney led the team with 11 rebounds and Sophie Phillips grabbed eight boards.
The Yellowjackets got 12 points from Danielle Hough and 11 from Morgan Burns.
“Bottom line: they’re better than us,” M-W coach Bryan Harmer said. “They’re a step or two quicker, they’re a little bit longer, a little bit stronger, they shoot the ball well and they defend well. (There’s) not too many weaknesses on that team.”