GLENS FALLS, N.Y. - While Averill Park posed for postgame photos and smiled among parents and friends off to the side of the court at the Glens Falls Civic Center, the members of the St. Anthony's girls basketball team collected their thoughts in a quiet locker room under the stands.
The Friars had just lost to Averill Park, 60-48, in the state Federation Class A championship game Saturday. And a few minutes after the final horn, St. Anthony's sophomore forward Symone Kelly said the opponent was "a team we definitely could have beat."
Kelly, who had 16 rebounds and eight points, helped St. Anthony's pull within one point at the start of the fourth quarter. But Averill Park, from about 10 miles east of Albany, went on an 11-0 run - fueled by three straight steals and scores - to bump its lead to 44-32 with just under six minutes left.
The Friars cut the lead to six twice after that but Averill Park, led by Katie Duma (22 points), made 14 of 16 free throws in the final four minutes. Michela Ottati added 14 points and 16 rebounds for Averill Park (25-1), the state public school champion.
"They're a good team. They have nine seniors over there," said St. Anthony's coach Ken Parham, whose team makeup is vastly different. The Friars start two freshmen and a sophomore, and have just one senior on the roster. "They've been playing together for a long time and we had a couple bumps. There were two to three minutes when we just didn't take care of the ball. That was the difference."
St. Anthony's lone senior, guard Carolyn Lizza, scored a team-high 10 points and added four rebounds. She hit 1 of 2 free throws to bring the Friars (24-7) within 33-32 with 7.7 seconds left in the third. But Averill Park outscored them 27-16 in the fourth.
Duma, a 5-11 senior guard, scored 13 points in the final quarter, including eight from the foul line. With every made shot, the largely partisan Averill Park crowd roared louder. Only about an hour drive away, they made up one of the louder crowds of any team, boys or girls, this weekend.
It was noise St. Anthony's didn't want to hear. Parham said he knew it would be tough to come back from a late four- or five-point deficit against what he knew to be a strong free throw shooting team.
Averill Park coach Sean Organ said he had little knowledge about St. Anthony's. "We couldn't find any game film or get any verbal scouting reports. All last night our staff and I and couple of our friends scoured the Internet for stats . . . We made adjustments as the game went on, applying ball pressure to some of their guards."
That turned out to be an important decision. St. Anthony's had 25 turnovers and Averill Park forced 16 steals.
"It was a hard game," Kelly said. "We missed a lot of layups and had turnovers. It was a bad loss. We lost it."
She plans to be back to this tournament, however. Her coach agrees. "With two freshman starters , another freshman coming off the bench, three sophomores, one junior and only one senior, hopefully we'll be here again," Parham said. "But it's not easy."