What does one basket mean to the Albany High girl’s varsity basketball team? How about a perfect conference record, a second consecutive Big Ten championship and momentum heading into the Section II playoffs.
The Lady Falcons faced off against the Catholic Central Crusaders on Friday February 10th in a pivotal matchup with the Big Ten title on the line. Albany managed to withstand a tenacious 4th quarter comeback and a missed shot in the final seconds by Catholic Central’s leading scorer Hannah Kutny to seal the victory for the Lady Falcons; the final score 56-55. The win pushed Albany’s record to (17-0, 11-0) and more importantly clinches the second straight league title for the 14th ranked Class AA team in the State. Junior Emia Willingham-Hurst led all scorers with 24 points and sophomore Breahanda Stratton added 18, including 3 key three-pointers in the 4th quarter.
The Lady Falcons have taken the Big Ten by storm this season with an average margin of victory of almost 26 points in 10 conference games prior to the clinching Catholic Central game. Albany began the season winning consecutive tournaments in Oneonta and their own Lady Falcon tournament.
The Lady Falcons haven’t broken stride since then en route to finishing 1st in the Big Ten after winning the first outright Big Ten championship in school history last year. Albany managed to achieve an outstanding season without the presence of a significant amount of upperclassmen, as only 4 of the Lady Falcon’s 16 players are seniors. However coach Kelly Haggerty-MacNabb believes that her team is faster and deeper than teams in the past and they seem to display intrinsic motivation.
Willingham-Hurst has been instrumental in getting the Lady Falcons to 17-0 and in a prime position to make a deep run into the Section II playoffs. The junior leads the team in scoring averaging 16.6 points per game. However her role on the team extends far beyond her statistical accomplishments. “Emia’s leadership has been second to none,” remarks coach Haggerty-MacNabb, “She has really stepped up in all aspects of her game and led our team this year.”
The Lady Falcons concluded their season last night on Senior Night, with a 48-45 loss at home. Albany will have its work cut out for them heading into March as they will have to contend with a stacked Class AA field including Shenedehowa, Colonie and Shaker, with a combined 4 losses between the three teams. However if Albany can solve their foul trouble issues and run their offense consistently they may find themselves advancing to the state playoffs.