GLENS FALLS, N.Y. — The deck was stacked against the Holy Trinity girls basketball team from the opening tip.
The Titans, state CHSAA Class B champions, entered Friday afternoon’s state Federation semifinal with just eight players, six of whom were freshman. The other six players on the roster had conflicts, leaving coach Roger Gaeckler with an overwhelming amount of youth on the season’s biggest stage.
Holy Trinity kept its composure and kept Irvington’s lead manageable until midway through the third quarter when the Bulldogs blew the game open. Maggie Long had eight points and Madison Misser had seven, but Holy Trinity lost, 62-37.
Irvington (28-1) advances to play Brooklyn Law & Technology in the state Federation Class B final at noon on Sunday.
“We were in the game,” Gaeckler said. “Finally, we just got worn down. There’s no question. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Katrina Samuda cut Irvington’s lead to 26-17 early in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs’ offense came to life, scoring the final 16 points of the period for a 42-17 lead. Long broke the run with a layup for the first basket of the fourth quarter.
Down 62-29 with under two minutes remaining, Holy Trinity (10-14) continued to push. Alexandra Fuhrer and Destini Gaeckler bookended four straight points by Long during an 8-0 run that finished the game.
Emily Partridge contributed six points off the bench on a pair of three-pointers. Katherine Sinclair scored five points.
In his first year as coach of the Titans, Gaeckler, 78, hoped to provide stability for a program that has struggled in recent years. As Hofstra men’s basketball coach from 1972 to 1979, Gaeckler led the team to two NCAA tournament berths (1975-76 and 1976-77).
His daughter, Destini, had four points and four rebounds in the loss. Gaeckler said he didn’t take the job to coach her, but it was an added benefit. He had to adjust his coaching style to cater more to today’s game, but the results speak for themselves.
“Over the years, I’ve had to adjust,” he said. “It was a different game. There was no shot clock. There was no three-point shot. They didn’t have the Euro-step. So, I’ve had to keep pace with the game as well.”
He has stuck to the “tried and true things,” like rebounding and defending, as cornerstones for where he wants the program to go in the next few years. With significant freshmen contributing this winter, the future isn’t as bleak.
“I think we’ve accomplished the first step of what we want to do, but we have a long way to go,” Gaeckler said. “I think the future’s very bright for us.”