Youth Is Served
Maple Grove-Cambridge Semifinal Will Feature Seven Freshmen, Sophomores In Starting Lineups
If you can play, you will play.
Gone are the days of juniors and seniors dominating varsity rosters while freshmen and sophomores find their way in junior varsity games.
Nowhere will that be more evident than in Friday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C semifinal between Section VI champion Maple Grove and Section II champion Cambridge.
The Red Dragons start a pair of freshmen in point guard Anna Tranum and center Sam Snow while their lineup is filled out by senior Marisa Schuppenhauer, who has played varsity for five years; senior Courtney Hemminger, who has played varsity for four years; and junior Bre Hill, who is in her third year of varsity play.
“I’ve played with them since I was a lot younger,” Snow said of herself, Tranum and fellow freshman Madison Price. “Playing with them is nice.”
“I knew I had to step up and help out the team,” said Tranum, who became a starter when returning leading scorer Riley Caskey was lost due to a preseason injury. “I was honored to because they are such great people to be around.”
Snow and Tranum joining the starting lineup was a nearly seamless transition for seniors Schuppenhauer and Hemminger.
“During summer league, getting used to playing with them was a little challenge,” Hemminger said, “but this whole season, they’ve really stepped it up. They honestly don’t seem like freshmen to me. We are all one.”
“If we didn’t have Anna especially … we’d definitely be in trouble,” Schuppenhauer added. “Sam has helped us a lot with shooting corner shots especially. She can hit them when we need them.”
But lining up on the other side of center court against Maple Grove will be an Indians team that starts four sophomores and a freshman.
Of the 10 girls on the Cambridge roster, only one is a junior and two are seniors. Those three combine for just 3.0 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
“This Cambridge team we are playing, if you think they are good this year, they have everyone back next year,” Maple Grove coach Bill Price said. “If we are going to do it, I think our chances are better this year.”
Twin sisters Lilly Phillips and Sophie Phillips are sophomores as are starters Ruth Nolan and Fiona Mooney. Freshman Stasia Epler also starts while sophomore McKayla McLenithan comes off the bench, but may start in place of an injured Mooney this weekend.
Those six combine for 60.1 points and 25.0 rebounds per game, obviously keying the Indians’ success throughout this season.
“We did a lot of CYO stuff with them when they were younger,” Cambridge head coach Bob Phillips, father of Lilly and Sophie, said by phone Monday evening. “They did play a lot when they were younger. They are three-sport athletes who’ve always played together.”
But facing star underclassmen will be nothing new for Maple Grove.
Just in Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 West, Chautauqua Lake features freshmen Lily Woodis and Lexi Jacobson and Southwestern seventh-grader Reece Beaver plays significant minutes while Olean’s Sara Pfeiffer and Southwestern’s Erin Radack are seniors this year, but have been dominant forces on local courts for years — despite Pfeiffer leaving for her junior season.
“I think girls are just playing year-round,” Price said. “They pick up the sport, they decide they like it at a young age and so that’s all they play.”
With year-round play becoming more and more prevalent, even seventh- and eighth-graders these days have put in far more time and are much more experienced than juniors and seniors 10 or 20 years ago.
“Kids are staying in one sport and they’re playing it year-round,” Price said. “It’s exciting because you get to enjoy these kids for several years.”
If the game is close at the end of regulation Friday, Phillips will likely have no problem putting the ball in one of his daughters’ hands with the game on the line — in fact he’ll probably have no choice.
And at the same time, Price will have just as much confidence in Schuppenhauer, Hemminger or Hill knocking down a decisive shot as he will Snow or Tranum.
“The grade doesn’t really have so much to do with it because they play year-round. They are playing 40, 50 games before the season ever starts,” Price said. “In that regard, they’re not really freshmen because of how much basketball they’ve played. For me that’s a good thing.”