LATHAM Last year's Section II Class A and AA champions met Friday night in Latham in an early-season Suburban Council girls basketball battle.
When the dust settled, defending Class AA champion Shaker had a 52-46 victory over two-time Class A champ Averill Park.
"What a hard-fought game," said Shaker coach Emily Caschera-Bowles. "I'm glad we pulled it out."
The Blue Bison (4-0) built a 13-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before Averill Park (2-2) rallied to make it close.
"Averill Park is relentless. They are so good, and they never go away," said Caschera-Bowles.
The Warriors' full-court press and strong play in the low post gave the Blue Bison problems, but several Shaker players made significant contributions at both ends of the floor. Madison Rowland led the way with 13 points, while Erica Vallecorsa chipped in with 11 points to lead the Blue Bison. Mackenzie Rowland added 10 points.
"Vallecorsa stepped up for us and really played an awesome game," said Caschera-Bowles. "People don't think of her as a scorer, but she has great shot selection."
Averill Park scored the first five points of the game and led 7-2 before Shaker went on an 11-2 run to close out the first quarter. The Blue Bison extended their lead to 17-9 early in the second quarter, but the Warriors rallied to trim Shaker's advantage to 21-16 at halftime.
Averill Park could have made the margin smaller had it done a better job of shooting free throws in the second quarter. The Warriors made only three of their 10 attempts from the foul line. However, some damage was done in the form of early foul trouble against four Shaker starters -- Mackenzie and Madison Rowland, Vallecorsa and Lauren Woods.
Shaker gave itself some breathing room in the third quarter as it built a double-digit lead on Averill Park. The Blue Bison first went up 11 points with 3:04 left in the third quarter, and they increased their margin to 13 points several times after that.