Some of the top Section II girls basketball players proved they are among the nation’s best players.
The Saratoga Sparks 16-and-under team placed second at last week’s AAU National Championships in Orlando. The Sparks reached the finals before losing to the LA Angels of Louisiana 53-46.
“The girls have worked hard, and they’ve played together for three years now,” said Sparks head coach Carlin DeMarinis. “It was time for them to make that run.”
The Sparks feature a who’s who of junior talent in the Capital District. Sydnie Rosales and Jaclyn Welch represented Section II Class AA champion Colonie on the 12-player roster, while Class B champion Watervliet had Ailayia Demand, Mikayle Deguire and Lashana Tolliver on the team.
“I think we really enjoy the summers playing together,” said Rosales. “We’ve grown to love playing together, and our level of play has expanded as a result.”
“When we first came together in our freshman year, we weren’t sure of each other and we didn’t talk much,” said Welch. “Now, we get along great.”
Other players on the team include Bethlehem’s Bridget Murphy, Scotia-Glenville’s Cassie Broadhead, Shaker’s Madison Rowland, Shenendehowa’s Alyssia Marsal and Ballston Spa’s Sydney Hansen.
“It’s almost like a coach’s dream to have all these all-stars from Section II on one team,” said DeMarinis.
The Sparks didn’t have Broadhead for the championship game against the LA Angels because her Mormon religion forbids physical activity on Sundays, but Murphy stepped up and scored 20 points to lead the way.
“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have Cassie, but it was time for some of the other girls to step up. That’s what Bridget Murphy did,” said DeMarinis. “She played like Cassie out there.”
“We tried to pick up our play as much as we could without Cassie,” said Rosales.
The Sparks began the five-day tournament in style by beating their three opponents in pool play. They defeated Girls Got Game from Florida 56-52 in last Tuesday’s opener, and they followed up with a 50-29 victory over Team Reign from North Carolina and a 51-44 win against the Region Lady Bulldogs from Indiana.