PLATTSBURGH — Roger Long believes his AuSable Valley girls’ basketball team knows what to do once the game starts today.
What concerns Long, however, is everything that happens prior to tip-off.
The Section VII-champion Patriots (19-2) will oppose Section V winner Bishop Kearney (17-8), from the Rochester area, at 2:15 p.m. today in the NYSPHSAA Class C final four semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College.
The first semifinal of the day has Section I’s Alexander Hamilton going up against Section IV’s Harpursville at 12:30 p.m. The C championship game is set for 1:45 p.m. on Sunday.
“We’re in unchartered waters now,” Long said on Wednesday. “I hope all the stuff that goes on prior to the game isn’t going to be a distraction for us.
“I think we have a good game plan going in. I don’t think we will see anyone who will put us under the challenge where we can’t handle the pressure of the game. But this is monumental for us. Our girls aren’t used to this and we don’t want to get sidetracked.
“I told the girls we have one weekend of basketball left to play.”
The Patriots departed on Friday morning.
“The kids are feeling good right now,” Long said. “It’s been a long season and for about the last month, we’ve been shortening our practices and just tweaking things like how we defend and the pace of the game.
“We’re going down there on Friday and watch a couple of games that day. The (Plattsburgh State) Field House is not an easy place to play because of the depth perception. I’m hoping the experience we had up here at the Field House with help us against Bishop Kearney. The environment will be about the same.”
Long was able to watch of couple of Hoosic Valley games before the Patriots defeated the defending state champions, 48-43, in regional championship play at the Field House last weekend.
He doesn’t, however, know quite as much about Bishop Kearney and was looking for more information during the week.
“I know a little bit about them,” Long said. “They’re a Parochial school and they play in a Parochial league. Just like Hoosic Valley, they haven’t lost to any teams their own size. They’ve lost games to AA, A and B schools.
“They have only one senior on the roster.”
Skyler Gausney-Jones, who is 5-10, is the only player averaging in double figures for the Kings at 12.7 points a game.
Princella McCullough, a 6-1 center, is averaging 8.7 a contest, followed by Kharysma Bryant at 7.7 and Emmanuela Edcka, 7.6.
“It’s hard to compare leagues,” Long said. “Everybody for them has pretty modest stats and nobody really stands out.
“But they run their offense through Gausney-Jones, while Bryant is a good shooter and McCullough a tall post player. They like to run and defensively, they will play a little zone. They like to play to their athleticism and use an up-tempo style.”
The Kings defeated Keshaqua (20-2), 50-45, for the Section V championship. In the regional title contest, Bishop Kearney was tied, 15-all, against Section VI’s Randolph before going on a 16-3 second-quarter run on the way to a 64-48 victory.
Playing and surviving a close game against Hoosic Valley in the regional finals won’t hurt the Patriots.
“We had six or seven games during the regular season that weren’t decided until the fourth quarter,” Long said. “One of those was a two-point loss to Beekmantown.
“We gained very valuable experience this time of year playing the close game against Hoosic Valley. I would have been a little more fearful if we had blown them out — we had to survive a fourth-quarter rally.”
Leading AuSable Valley, which has won 11 games in a row, in scoring are Meghan Strong (14.1), Taylor Saltus (11.4) and Logan Snow (8.5). Snow had a huge 20-point performance in the Hoosic Valley victory and those three players will be counted on to supply offensive punch.
The Patriots will need other players to step up as well.
“Haley Taylor does a good job keeping the ball alive for us off the glass and is our best rebounder,” Long said. “She usually gets the hard assignment on defense. Sierra Snow is fundamentally sound as she covers the perimeter and plays within herself.
“Madison Rondeau can hit threes and is capable of a big offensive night. She also has a knack of attacking the basket well. Madison McCabe is a call-up for us and she has earned minutes. Bryce Douglass brings a lot of energy to the post and Rachel Knapp is very athletic on the perimeter as a role player.”
The Patriots have done a good job rising to the challenge and Long hopes there’s more on the way.
“We need to find our offensive rhythm a little quicker than we did against Hoosic Valley,” he said. “We got out of the gate a little slow.
“We want to maintain our composure and take care of the basketball. We have an extra gear we don’t always use. I’m hoping we find that extra gear this weekend.”