TROY — It isn’t easy to bounce back from a missed shot that could have won a game that was tied in regulation.
For a freshman playing in a championship game, it can be that much harder, especially with four fouls.
But Cambridge’s Sophie Phillips brushed away her last-second miss with a slashing layup with 13 seconds left in overtime to put the Indians ahead for good Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College.
Senior Grace Snyder added a pair of free throws moments later to seal a 62-59 Class C championship victory over Mekeel Christian for Cambridge’s first Section II girls basketball title since 2001.
“I knew we just needed it, so any way we could’ve gotten it, it just had to be done,” said Phillips, who scored a game-high 19 points to lead the Indians. She was named Class D Most Valuable Player.
“She’s a great player,” said senior Helen Mooney, who added 14 points and 12 rebounds and joined Philips on the all-tournament team. “She’s able to brush it off and so are we because we know how great she is and we know we can all rally from that.”
“To miss a shot like that and come back and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to make the next one’ says a lot about her,” Cambridge coach Tony Bochette said. “It also says a lot about our seniors, because in the huddle after Sophie missed that shot at the end of regulation, the seniors were the first ones to say, ‘Hey, it’s all right, don’t worry about it, we’re gonna get it in overtime.’”
The victory sends the Indians (23-1) into a regional semifinal against Section VII champion Seton Catholic of Plattsburgh on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Saratoga Springs High School.
“It’s incredible — it was such a hard-fought win today,” Bochette said. “The girls have worked so hard, and coming from the Wasaren (League), you get a tough game every night, and this was no different. We were ready for this.”
But to win the title, Cambridge had to claw back into the game from a 33-23 halftime deficit after a rough first half, then survive a tight fourth quarter and overtime.
The Indians rallied in the third quarter, using a 16-4 run over a five-minute span to tie the game at 41-41 on a pull-up jumper by Mooney.
The Lions (20-3) went back on top on back-to-back 3-pointers by Altagracia Delarosa, but Cambridge continued chipping away, taking its first lead since the first quarter, 52-51 on a pair of Lilly Phillips free throws with 2:57 left in regulation.
“It took a little bit of remembering what we are,” Bochette said. “The past couple games we let the tempo be dictated by the other team at the beginning of the game. … Once we got it chipped away and got that lead and all of a sudden it’s a situation where we’ve got a good shot here.”
The lead changed hands a couple of times, with Mooney giving the Indians a 56-54 lead with 54 seconds left in regulation. Jillian Ballard tied it again for Mekeel seconds later.
A traveling call against the Lions set the stage for Sophie Phillips’ chance at the game winner with time running out, but her shot banged off the rim, sending the game to OT.
“I was a little disappointed, but it gave us four extra minutes to play, so that helped us,” Sophie Phillips said. “(Teammates) were just saying, ‘Do what you normally do, take it to the basket when you can. Just keep playing.’”
“She has made so many throughout the season, she has been so reliable, so for her to miss that one, it wasn’t really a big deal at all,” Snyder said. “I was like, ‘Sophie, just get it out of your head.’ She had four fouls at that point, too, so she was holding back a little bit because she didn’t want to get that fifth foul, but I told her, ‘This could be our last game, just go for it,’ and she went for it, again, like she always does.”
Mekeel lost its leading scorer — Bekkah Dean, who had 17 points — to an ankle injury on the opening tip of overtime.
Freshman Maraya Davis gave the Lions a 59-58 lead on a layup with 40 seconds to play, but Sophie Phillips drove in hard off a screen and brought the Cambridge fans roaring to their feet with her go-ahead basket.
Snyder then drained two free throws to give the Indians a three-point cushion with six seconds left.
“I was basically just thinking, ‘Grace, you’d better make these, if you don’t then we could lose the game,’” she said. “It was a lot of pressure, but I just took a deep breath and did what I do at practice.”
Mekeel’s last desperate shot did not fall and the Indians celebrated at midcourt.
“It hasn’t really set in yet because we’ve worked so hard for it for such a long time,” Snyder said. “I’ve been on varsity since ninth grade and it hasn’t been this sweet in those four years, so it feels incredible.”