BEEKMANTOWN — They may be young, they may be able to score in bunches and play stifling defense, but on Saturday the Cambridge girls basketball team showed something more important.
Moriah rallied to close within seven points in the final minutes, but the Indians refused to yield anything more in a 60-47 Class C regional final victory at Beekmantown High School.
“That’s mental toughness right there,” Cambridge coach Bob Phillips said. “We’ve had that happen in big games — you have to bend, but you can’t break. If you take care of the ball, if you can defend, rebound and hit free throws, you can thwart a lot of comebacks.”
The win put Cambridge (23-1) into the State Girls Basketball Tournament for the second year in a row. The No. 2-ranked Indians are set to face Maple Grove in the semifinals Friday at 3:15 p.m. at Hudson Valley Community College.
“It’s so good, it shows all the hard work we put in to get back, and it’s basically an entirely new team,” said sophomore forward Lilly Phillips, who scored a game-high 22 points. “It’s great to accomplish the same thing as we did last year. Hopefully we can get a little bit farther.”
“If feels awesome knowing we made it back, after we lost five girls from last year,” said Sophie Phillips, Lilly’s twin, who added 18 points.
Freshman Stasia Epler added 11 points for the Indians, who also start four sophomores.
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The Indians used their transition offense to open each half with a scoring blitz — a 12-0 run to start the game, and a personal 10-0 outburst by Lilly Phillips early in the third quarter that gave Cambridge a 36-19 lead.
Lilly Phillips had noticed that the Vikings had put a guard on her — at 5-foot-11, she stood 6 inches taller than her defender. Two steals, four layups and two one-and-ones later, she had 10 points in a two-minute span.
“Since I’ve been in the post more since Fi (Fiona Mooney) has been out, I’m used to it, so I just went to the hoop a little bit more,” Lilly Phillips said.
“They had some momentum at the end of the first half, so that run took the wind out of their sails a bit,” Bob Phillips said. “That 10-0 run was huge — it set the tone and gave us some separation. Any time you can come out in the first minute or two of any half or quarter and get a spurt like that, it’s important. You dictate the tempo and make a team play the way you want to play.”
The Indians needed that cushion as Moriah (17-4) chipped back into the game behind a sterling performance by senior McKenzie Sprague, who scored 19 points, including a 10-for-14 effort at the foul line.
Sprague scored 12 of the Vikings’ 14 points in a five-minute span to pull Moriah within 50-40 with 3:53 remaining. A 3-pointer by Noel Williams and baskets by Madison Olcott and Williams brought the Vikings within 54-47 with 1:38 to play.
Moriah got no closer. Sophie Phillips’ driving layup and a few free throws sealed the victory.
“They played really good defense and took away from us pushing the ball,” Sophie Phillips said. “When we start getting stagnant on offense, we know we have to pick up our intensity and create chaos on defense to get us going.”
“The fourth quarter really showed what the girls are made of,” Bob Phillips said. “They’re a tough group, mentally and physically. They don’t let things bother them.”