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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 8, 2007

Accomplishments hard to see through the tears

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — With tears in their eyes, they walked to the middle of the court. Their dreams had been vanquished, but they accomplished more than a lot of people thought they could.

The seniors on the Guilderland girls’ basketball team walked as a group to get the runner-up plaque of the Class AA Section II tournament. And, without hesitation, the seniors took the award and walked back to their bench. They were filled with disappointment as just a few feet away, the victorious team was celebrating.

The Lady Dutch were relegated to second place after losing a hard-fought 41-34 game to Colonie at Hudson Valley Community College on Saturday evening.

Coach Frank Cacckello sent out the seniors to pick up the runner-up plaque instead of doing it himself, which is typical for coaches.

"Their leadership has been important to the basketball program," Cacckello said. "They’ve been in it since the GBC [Guilderland Basketball Club] and SMS [Saint Madeliene Sophie]. The seniors ran this team to the point where it was a tight game. They got us to this point."

Good defense

"I thought we played well defensively," said Guilderland Coach Frank Cacckello. "On offense, we had to make some adjustments. We didn’t hit shots early in the third. But that game was in doubt all the way to the end."

Colonie led for most of the game, but couldn’t shake the Lady Dutch. The Garnet Raiders had beaten the Dutch twice during the regular season, both times in December. On Saturday, Colonie led, 14-10, at the end of the first quarter and 21-16 at halftime.

The Lady Dutch kept the game close, but were outscored, 10-7, in the third quarter to fall behind, 31-23, at the end of the third frame.

Kristin Pezze, a senior, scored to start off the fourth quarter for the Lady Dutch. But Guilderland was only able to trade baskets for the first minutes of the final stanza and couldn’t catch up.

The Lady Dutch got a jump shot by Nikki Branchini, another senior, and an inside basket by classmate Tricia Loux. But those baskets were offset by four points from Colonie senior and the tournament’s most valuable player, Ola Shajuyigbe, that kept the Garnet Raiders’ lead to six points.

Shajuyigbe made a foul shot to put the lead to eight points. And, even though Guilderland’s Mary Kate O’Connell scored on a hook shot, Shajuyigbe continued to hurt the Dutch with two more foul shots.

Colonie got three more foul shots in the final minute while Guilderland got only a three-point basket from Pezze, which made up the final margin.

"They are a tough defensive team," Cacckello said. "We started creating or own shots and that’s what you want. We just couldn’t get them to drop."

Shajuyigbe led the Garnet Raiders with 24 points. She was the only Colonie player to reach double figures. Logan Pintka added eight points.

"You just pick your poison with them," Cacckello said of Colonie. "We shut down the best player in Section II [Pintka] and Ola burned us."

Guilderland was led by Pezze’s 14 points. Loux added 10 for the Lady Dutch and O’Connell chipped in with four.

"They really dogged Kristin a lot today," Cacckello said after the game. "We made some adjustments, but they made it really hard for her."

Shajuyigbe was named the Class AA tournament’s most valuable player. Pintka joined her on the all-star team. Pezze and Loux represented Guilderland on the all-star team.

"She is a special kid," Cacckello said. "To see her face as they called her name on the all-star team was great. She was shocked. She’s an underestimated kid. She called me the other night, before our semifinal game and she wanted to know what she needed to do to help the team. She was nervous. I’ve known all along that she is a pretty good basketball player and, without her help, we wouldn’t be here."


Guilderland beat Bethlehem, 37-31, in the semifinal contest last Wednesday.

Pezze led the Dutch with 14 points. Loux scored six and Branchini added five. Meghan Carroll and Danielle Burns each scored four.

It was a great run through the sectionals for the Lady Dutch. They were the number-three seed from the Suburban Council, and after beating Schenectady in the first round, they upset Big 10 second-seed Catholic Central in the quarterfinals.

Bethlehem knocked off Suburban Council top seed Shenendehowa to set up the semifinal match with Guilderland.

On Saturday, the Guilderland players had a hard time realizing what they had accomplished this season and in the recent weeks. And they weren’t looking into what they did for the future of Guilderland basketball.

"I think they’ll enjoy the whole weekend," Cacckello said. "There is nothing I would change, nothing. It will settle in a few weeks from now how special a time this is."

Pezze, O’Connell, Branchini, Loux, Carroll, and Melani Ostrowski played their final games for the Lady Dutch this season. Pezze and O’Connell, who was named Guilderland’s scholar-athlete for the tournament, have an opportunity to play basketball in college. Branchini will be playing lacrosse at the University at Albany next year.

The Lady Dutch had made three trips in the past four years to the final four. They have been in the final two the past three years.

There has been support for one of the best programs at Guilderland High School and Section II girls’ basketball.

"Coach [Jim] Mazzone] and I were driving down Western Avenue and there were 100 or so fans at Robinson Hardware, cheering for us as the bus drove by," Cacckello said. "It was kids from fourth grade to eighth grade and from freshmen and junior-varsity teams. They’ve been watching us for so long. And these girls [varsity players] are the number-one role models for the younger kids. And they know what kind of work it takes to reach this point.

"Guilderland basketball does not die tonight. It’s here to stay."

Athletes represent Guilderland all over the state

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — A plethora of athletes from Guilderland High School competed in state competitions this past weekend.

They competed locally and in far-flung places such as Ithaca, Buffalo, and Rochester.

Guilderland senior Dana Goodknight tied for fifth in two events at the state gymnastics meet held at Rush-Henrietta High School in the Rochester area on Saturday.

Goodknight finished fifth in the all-around and in the uneven bars at the meet. She scored 36.75 in the all-around and had 9.325 on the uneven bars.

The Section II team finished eighth and included Guilderland gymnasts Toni Whitbeck, Alexa Patnaude, and Kristi Russell.

David Slingerland competed on the intersectional relay team at the state indoor track-and-field meet at Cornell University.

Slingerland and his team placed sixth in a time of 9:12.96.

Vadim Yafayev represented the Guilderville swim team at the state meet held at Erie County Community College in Buffalo. The Guilderland junior finished fifth in a time of 1:5.59 in the 200-yard individual medley.

It was a tougher time for the three wrestlers representing Guilderland at the state meet held at the Times Union Center in Albany on Friday and Saturday.

Ian DeSol, Mike Cubillos, and Kyle Hussey did not place in the state since none of them finished in the top six.

Hussey and Cubillos advanced to the second day of the tournament, but were eliminated in their first matches in the wrestlebacks on Saturday. Hussey won his first-round match in the 275-pound weight class on Friday, but lost his quarterfinal match by pin. He won his first wrestleback match on Friday.

DeSol and Cubillos lost their first-round matches in the 119-pound and 145-pound weight classes respectively.

Cubillos won his first consolation match on Friday but lost on Saturday, to eliminate him from the tournament. DeSol lost his consolation match and did not make it to the second day.

The meets wrapped up the winter sports season at Guilderland.

Spring sports practices and tryouts began on Monday.

Cheerleaders overcome nerves, tumbles to repeat

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Down the escalator they came. With a look of triumph, the cheerleaders descended to the throng cheering for them at the Albany International airport.

The Guilderland cheerleading squad, for the second year in a row, came home from Florida with not just suntans but also a first-place trophy. The Flying Dutch won the co-ed division at the Contest of Champions national competition at The Walt Disney World Resort’s Wide World of Sports complex last week.

The Guilderland squad spent the week in central Florida, but it was all fun.

"It was very nerve-wracking," said Guilderland Coach Patty Palmer. "I was so nervous this time. We had a rough start. It took us awhile to get going. We had some injuries this season. The team worked really hard. They never got down; they kept plugging along and did great.

"Heading down this year," Palmer continued, "I felt a lot more pressure, after winning it last year. I was worried the seniors might not have the same experience as last year. But it was magical. The kids were wonderful. They stuck together and were a good unit."

"Last year was really fun," said senior Nick Zanotta. "It was a blast doing it this year. This team has a lot of chararcter, and they brought it out in competition."

Guilderland was up against three teams from Florida. Two of the teams, the Dutch had competed against before. The third was a new team.

"I wasn’t sure what to expect," Palmer said. "One team was close to us. We watched the other teams, and they gave us a little bit of a fight. It was very close. We beat the second-place team by two points."

Palmer, who is usually too nervous to watch the results being announced, knew the result when she saw the reaction of the parents that went along on the trip.

"We had a lot of parents and a lot of new parents who went," Palmer said. "I knew it was good when I looked back and saw the parents, and the senior parents had tears in their eyes. I knew they were happy."

"Best-kept secret"

Palmer also had more reason to be nervous right before the competition.

"The team was in back and there were signs all over saying ‘Best kept secret at Disney,’" Palmer said. "I kept thinking that Guilderland cheerleading is the best kept secret. Traveling to practices and competitions, we learn a lot about each other. A lot of the kids were saying that they wouldn’t be back to Disney until they came with their kids."

"It was a blast when we got down there," Zanotta said. "We still had plenty of time to prepare for the competition. We went to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot [Center], Animal Kingdom, MGM [Studios] and Downtown Disney. We were going more on adrenaline than sleep.

"As a team, we bonded," Zanotta added. "Down there, we really came together."

"It was exciting," said senior Amanda Heacock. "Last year was more of a shock. This year we knew if we came through we would get it."

"It was our second year going down there so we knew our way around," added senior Sarah Denniston. "It was fun experiencing it with a new team."

"We saw how we’ve progressed over the years," added senior Randi Gemmiti.

The three seniors have been on the cheer team since their sophomore years.

"I think in previous years," Denniston said, "we’ve followed the older kids. It’s different this year. I think we are the leaders of the team and the younger kids are looking up to us as individuals."

Building on success

The three girls said that they don’t want to let down the younger cheerleaders nor as the alumni who were successful before them. That pushes the team to continue to succeed.

"We’ve progressed each year," Denniston said. "The team brings a little more. We’ve seen different levels of competition and what helps us is our originality. We know we have to be original"

"Every group wants the same thing as the team before them," Denniston added. "We want to keep Guilderland strong as a good team."

"We’ve seen a couple of different levels of cheerleading," Gemmiti said. "We’ve seen how hard the routines have gotten. We put a lot of work into what we do now."

The team had some new fans cheering for it and they had plenty to cheer about on the day of the competition.

"It was weird down there," Lloyd said, "because no one knew who we were. Here we’re treated well, but down there we were no special team."

"The competition was the highest caliber we’ve ever seen," Zanotta said. "It was hard to get ready, but people expect big things from us. We hit some big stunts and our routine really came together."

What’s next"

Some of the male cheerleaders are looking to go to the University of Albany and might cheer for the Great Danes, who are coached by Palmer. Zanotta and Lloyd have football as an option. Zanotta is also looking at Harvard University and Lloyd is looking at Albany or some Division III schools.

The three senior females haven’t decided where they are going to school, but cheerleading might be a factor for them. They do know that their final campaign as Guilderland cheerleaders is almost over.

"I would like to go to a school that has a good team," Denniston said. "I’ve thought about it more since this season is coming to a close."

"I’ve thought about it more," Gemmiti agreed, "especially since I know that this year is almost over."

"Ups and downs"

The Dutch had to deal with some adversities during the season as they prepared to make the trip to Florida.

"We had a few ups and downs," Palmer said. "One of the tumblers fractured her hand. And we had a few other injuries. We got everybody back the weekend before we left. The kids did real well at practice. They worked real hard and came in set to work. They kept saying, ‘We want to finish it up.’"

The Dutch did have a lot of experience in key positions.

"We have 12 seniors," Palmer said. "And all five flyers are seniors. We’ll really need to rebuild on that."

All the boys on the team are also seniors. So Palmer will have to rebuild there next year. But that can wait.

"I’m not worried at all about that right now," she said.

Zanotta and Lloyd are joined this season by Ryan Yando, Jared Moriarty, and D.J. Johnson.

"One of the guys told me he has played every sport there is," Palmer said. "He’s done boxing and he plays football. He said this is a different feeling. That it’s wonderful. Donovan Lloyd put a nice light on it for me. He said it was an unbelievable rush to get out there and be ready to compete. All three new boys stepped in and did a good job. The two senior boys helped out a lot."

"This is one of the best teams I’ve been on," Lloyd said. "I’m new to the sport, but I’m happy I did it."

Zanotta, who is one of the returners, recruited some of the new guys and convinced Lloyd to come out for the team before the two were teammates on the football squad.

"I started on him before football," Zanotta said. "I said, ‘Why not do it"’

"We have two returning senior guys and we lost two other ones," Zanotta added. "We had shoes that needed to be filled in the guy department."

It took awhile for Lloyd to get the hang of the sport. He said he joined to meet girls.

"Obviously, I took some criticism when I first started," Lloyd said of the reaction from other students. "But when I got going, I was pretty happy I did it. It was not as bad as I thought, in the end. There wasn’t anyone talking. It’s great to see how far we came together.

"I got a lot more into it than I planned," Lloyd added. "During the first or second competition, I said, ‘Oh, there are no more games.’"

"He found out right after the first practice that this was pretty intense," said Zanotta. "It didn’t take much time for him to learn how much fun the cheerleading world really is."

"Really thrilled"

The seven senior girls are all returning members of the team. They passed on their experience to the new members of the team, Palmer said.

The Dutch also get help from former cheerleaders.

"It’s nice that the alumni are always making sure that everything is going well," Palmer said. "They were calling me in the days leading up to the competition and that night. Tori [the coach’s daughter] comes and helps us. Some alumni come in and help with tumbling, and some of the boys that graduated last year come in and give pointers. It’s great that the teams from before root for teams of today."

The Dutch competed in the Suburban Council championships last weekend at Ballston Spa and will be heading to the Big Apple Classic in New York City this weekend.

Guilderland is usually the strongest team in the area; this year the competition was a little weaker.

"In our area, there was a lot of coaching turnover," Palmer said. "Teams are getting on their feet and not as competitive as they’ve been in the past. Scotia and Mohonasen are usually pretty good. We didn’t have them to use as a target in local competition. That made it a little more nerve-wracking. We were not put to the test."

Palmer is the anchor of the program at Guilderland. As athletes come and go, she is keeping the program successful. But, she said, she gets a lot of help from the cheerleaders.

"They’re really nice kids," Palmer said. "We have great parents and great kids."

Palmer will miss these seniors, as much as any other group.

"It’s sad to end," Palmer said. "We want to finish strong here locally. Ballston Spa is our only competition. They’ve set their sites on us. We went head-to-head with them once in Utica."

The Dutch are pleased, though, that they have another national title to show off locally.

"Everybody was sweating it out," Palmer said. "We’re really thrilled. It’s great to do it two years in a row and continue the legacy and be a part of it. Hopefully, we’ll go back next year. We want to be even more. Grand Champion is dangling in front of us."

Bulldogs’ fight comes up short in semifinals

By Tim Matteson

BERNE — The players on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo girls’ basketball team gave it their all in last Wednesday’s Class CC sectional semifinal game.

But they fell just short of pulling off another upset.

A few days after they upset third-seeded Greenwich, the Lady Bulldogs almost did the same to number-two Mechanicville. However, the Red Raiders made a couple of shot down the stretch and held on for a 48-43 win.

"It was a close game," said BKW Coach Tom Galvin. "We played as well as we have this season. They did everything you could ask of them. We were down three with 25 seconds to go and we had a chance to tie it. But we turned it over. They had a steal and got a lay-up at the buzzer. That made it the five-point spread."

Scrappy dogs

The Bulldogs clawed back from a deficit to make it interesting at the end.

"We were down at the end of the fourth quarter," Galvin said. "We battled back and we tied it with five minutes left. I thought we had all the momentum and we had a chance to take over. But to their credit, they made some big shots and we ended up going home, I think before we wanted to."

Everybody played a great game, Galvin said, and the players left everything on the court at Burnt Hills High School.

"We had a desire to get back to Hudson Valley," the coach said. "It was in their eyes. They hustled and scrapped."

Sophomore guard Andrea Van Dyke led the Lady Bulldogs with 12 points.

"I think she scored 55 points in the three tournament games," Galvin said.

Senior Brittany Krimsky also scored 12 points and classmate C.J. Vincent finished the contest with nine points. Lauren Ford scored seven points and Anna Kusler scored three points and pulled down an impressive 21 rebounds.

"As has been our fashion all year, the five starters spread out the scoring," Galvin said. "We did a great job defensively. It was a total team effort. We just couldn’t get over the hump at the right time."

Kelly Murphy led Mechanicville with 22 points. Though the Red Raiders’ leading scorer had a good game, BKW did the job of holding down the Raiders’ other big scorers — Lindsay McKeever and Shannon McBride.

"Defensively, we held them to 40 points," Galvin said. "Our offense struggled at times. We had a good game plan, but we were a little nervous. We watched them a couple of times on tape. They looked more intimidating than in real life. Plus, they play in the Colonial Council and have a tough schedule. My kids proved they can play with any Section II team their size."

Looking ahead

The good news for the Bulldogs is that they will have eight returning players for next winter. The bad news is that they lose two key players and leaders in Vincent and Krimsky.

"That’s great to have that many kids coming back from a team that had a 15-8 season," Galvin said. "But we have two holes to fill. Brittany and C.J. were great. This was supposed to be the next great senior class. But seven or eight players trickled out. I thank C.J. and Krim for sticking it out.

"The returners we have are good," Galvin continued, "but we’ll miss those two next season. They had a chance to win the CCs. We lost so many kids that were supposed to bring us back to the promised land, but with Krim’ s and C.J.’s leadership, we never missed those kids that didn’t come out over the years."

Krimsky hasn’t decided where she will go to college and Galvin isn’t sure if basketball will be in her future. Vincent will play basketball and has narrowed her choices to a couple of schools.

"She is looking at Keene State in New Hampshire and Oneonta," Galvin said. "She is looking to continue to the next level. For Brittany, it depends on where she goes."

Though Galvin will miss his two seniors, the future looks bright for the Bulldogs.

"We have great energy coming out of the program," he said. "We want to re-capture it a little bit. We went to the semifinals two years ago and last year we were in the quarters. We have great fan support and they were there for us again.

"The returning players realized how much fun basketball can be," Galvin added. "There’s fun in the Hilltowns again. We’ll take some time off and then come out ready to work. We’ll play AAU, and team camps, and summer league. And, before you know it, it’ll be open gym again, and we’ll be ready to roll."

Galvin will also have a good group of players coming up from the junior varsity. The young Bulldogs won the Southern Division of the Western Athletic Conference.

This year’s varsity Bulldogs tied for second in the division and did more than what was expected.

"It was a successful season," Galvin said. "We took a team that was not supposed to do much and not supposed to win eight games and won 15. And we’re looking to go even further next year."

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