CAMBRIDGE — Tony Bochette offered a challenge: watch his Cambridge girls basketball team play on the court. Now pick out the freshmen.
It’s easier said than done, because the Indians’ trio of freshmen starters plays at a level seldom seen from most varsity players.
“If you didn’t have a roster, I don’t think you’d be able to tell,” said Bochette, the Indians’ head coach.
“I think it’s their level of confidence,” senior Grace Snyder said. “They look like freshmen, but once they got on that court, you wouldn’t know they’re freshmen.”
But the basketball skills of Fiona Mooney and the Phillips twins, Sophie and Lilly, are only part of the story of Cambridge’s success this season.
The Indians — who play Friday in the Class C semifinals of the State Girls Basketball Tournament at Hudson Valley Community College — also have five seniors: Snyder, Helen Mooney, Bridey Nolan, Victoria Dupuis and Hailey Herrington. Some were already established starters or could have expected to be starters when this season began.
On another team, seniors taking less-prominent roles behind 14-year-olds could become a hornet’s nest of bruised egos, jealousy and back-biting.
For the Indians, it’s all about basketball and family. Fiona Mooney is the younger sister of Helen, a five-year varsity starter. The Phillips girls, the team’s two leading scorers, are the daughters of two coaches, Bob and Edith Phillips. Bob is the varsity girls assistant.
“Even though we haven’t all been on the same team, we’ve all played together before,” Helen Mooney said. “There was a level of comfort coming into it.”
“In practice, we all have fun — we’re legitimately friends, all 12 of us,” Fiona Mooney said. “That translates to the court — there’s no jealousy, we all genuinely like each other, there’s no drama outside of basketball.”
“I’ve actually known the twins since they were really little,” Nolan said. “When I was in like sixth grade, I kept telling them that we were going to play varsity one year with each other. And we got it this year and we’re in the state final four, so it’s super exciting.”
It’s not just basketball, they also play soccer and track and spend time together outside of school, too.
“We’re all involved in the (Washington County) fair, with showing different animals and everything — literally all of us — so we’ve spent so many summers and fairs together,” Nolan said.
“We’ve all just grown up together,” Snyder said. “Fiona’s always been around because of Helen, and it’s such a tight-knit community so we’ve all known each other so well.”
The freshmen were also a known quantity — they have all played high-level travel basketball for a long time. Sophie Phillips was brought up to varsity as an eighth-grader halfway through last season. Lilly followed her for the final four games. Fiona Mooney joined the varsity when preseason practice started in November.
Snyder was one of the seniors who lost a starting spot to the freshmen.
“Of course, at first it stings a little bit,” she said, “but when you watch the three freshmen play — they’re so good, there’s no way around that, they’re so good.”
“The freshmen came in, and the seniors and juniors expected them to play the way they play,” Bochette said. “So it makes things a lot easier that way, when there’s an expectation that’s met.”
Winning, of course, is the greatest antidote for any bad feelings — and the Indians have won a lot. Cambridge is carrying a 25-1 record into Friday’s 10 a.m. state semifinal game against Millbrook, a testament to not only the Indians’ on-court skills, but a smooth transition into their roles at the beginning of the season.
“It doesn’t matter who’s on the floor at all, as long as we do what we have to do to score and win,” Sophie Phillips said.
“It’s the want-to-win and the love of the game — we flow together,” Snyder said. “We want to win, we want to score, we want to go as far as we can — and it doesn’t matter who’s doing it.”
To an extent, this senior group has been through something like this before. Nolan, Snyder and Helen Mooney all have older sisters that they played with when they were younger.
“We were the younger ones at one point, so we know how,” Snyder said. “When we were younger, the older girls transitioned us into the team. We tried to do that for (the freshmen), and they fit into the team so well.”
“It’s very easy for upperclassmen to be upset in a situation like this, but the freshmen have come up and said, ‘This is what we’re capable of, we’re going to help you be a better team, and if you’re willing to let us, we’re willing to help.’” Bochette said. “And everyone jumped on board the bandwagon and said, ‘We really don’t care who our leading scorers are, we don’t care who our all-stars are — the bottom line is, we’re trying to win a state championship.’ And it’s been like that since day one.”