Albany Girls’ Basketball tops No. 1 seed Shenendehowa for Class AA title

TROY — There were two impressive elements to Albany High’s appearance in the Class AA Division II Final on Saturday: the Falcons’ hard play against Shenendehowa and guard Jordan Johnson’s postgame celebration that included backflips, frontflips and a split for the finale.

Third-seeded Albany delivered a tenacious defensive performance and pulled off the quality plays of forward Shonyae Edmonds in the second half to stun Shenendehowa 58-52 at Hudson Valley Community College.

“It’s amazing,” said Edmonds, who earned tournament most valuable player honors after finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds.

The championship is the first for Albany since 2013. Shenendehowa was denied a fifth title since 2016 with the loss.

The Falcons’ pressure tactics clearly unsettled Shenendehowa throughout the game and helped bring about 15 turnovers. None other than senior point guard Jillian Huerter scored a basket for the Plainsmen in the first half as she went 3 for 5 and the rest of the team missed nine attempts as the Plainsmen fired from behind 21-16 at the break.

“Their defensive pressure really won us over. It really does,” Shenendehowa coach Joe Murphy said. “We were never comfortable the whole game and only scored three field goals in the first half. We had all their kids at fault and we were still five behind, so you know we were in trouble there. Credit them. They did a bunch of and-ones on the stretch. We knew Edmonds would be a handful and she was.

“A lot of my young players have stepped up and played well defensively. We’ve worked hard on that,” Albany coach Decky Lawson said. “I kept them (on JV) for a while, even though I only had seven or eight girls playing. I should have brought them up earlier, but I’m happy to have them now.”

Despite owning the lead at intermission, Lawson realized that the team’s top threat at the low post only had two points, so he decided to speak with Edmonds.

“At halftime I told Shonyae it was his turn now because our reserve held on for a while to give us a chance,” Lawson said. “It was time for her to take over and she did.

“I had to pull myself together,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds thrived working off the glass and scoring rebounds, but freshman point guard Azera Gates also set her up with exceptional flows after the entry.

Shenendehowa managed to involve other players offensively in the second half, but Albany was able to trade baskets with the Plainsmen.

Edmonds had two foul shots to put the Falcons ahead 50-41 with 4:04 to go, but Huerter (19 points) helped rally his team to 53-50 in the final minute. Gates, an all-tournament selection, drained a pair of free throws with 30.9 seconds left to give Albany a 55-50 advantage.

Lawson scheduled four games in four days in December where his team went 2-2 competing in the Amsterdam Holiday College Showcase and the Impact Athletic Center Classic. That’s when Lawson knew he had something special.

“These girls love to play,” Lawson said. “Those four games were tough, but they loved it. They loved the competition. Those games prepared us for tonight.”

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