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Perfect timing for states

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FORT COVINGTON — Talk about peaking at the right time.

The Salmon River girls basketball team is in full resurgence mode, playing the type of game that coach Karen Francis has “been waiting to see all season.”

The Shamrocks (16-5) play in the state Class B semifinal game against Section 5’s Waterloo (21-1) at 11:45 a.m. Friday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. Waterloo, ranked fourth in the latest state Class B poll, advanced with a 41-37 victory over Section 6’s Olean (19-3).

The other Class B semifinal game will pit Irvington (21-2) against Oneonta (21-1), which are ranked first and second, respectively, in the same state rankings. Salmon River is ranked fifth.

The winner of the Salmon River/Waterloo contest will meet the Irvington/Oneonta winner at 4 p.m. Saturday.

“We know we have our work cut out for us this weekend, but the girls are focused and ready to dig in again,” said Francis, who led Salmon River to its last appearance in the final four in 1982 as a player. “I have full confidence in our players and know their potential. I’m excited for them because I know how hard they have worked, not only this year, but all the years leading up to now.”

The Shamrocks, as they have been for the majority of the season, are led offensively by junior standout Abby Kelly, who poured in 35 points during the quarterfinal win against Watervliet on Saturday. Kelly finished ranked among the top scorers in the Northern Athletic Conference, averaging 23.3 points per game with 34 3-pointers and shooting around 50 percent from the field.

Inside force Aliyah Cook, another junior has stepped up her game at the right time of the year. Cook, averaging 9.8 points per game, added a 17-point, five-rebound effort against Watervliet, tossing in a pair of 3-pointers and supplying four free throws during a the crucial 12-4 fourth-quarter run that propelled the girls to the state semifinals. Cook was among the NAC Central Division leaders in rebounds during the regular season with 8.9 rebounds per game.

Adding to the board play is junior Kwiio King, who made the jump back to basketball after a year of playing hockey for Salmon River. King scored all seven of her points during the final quarter against Watervliet, while collecting eight rebounds, and making four steals. She averages 8.5 rebounds a game.

Helping out in the backcourt are two more juniors, Jaiden Mitchell and Taylor Francis.

“I’m still in awe of how well our girls played on Saturday,” Francis said.

The Waterloo Indians have a trio of players to watch. Juniors Lindsay Johnson and Lauren Deming, both six-footers, scored 15 and 12 points, respectively, in the regional final against Olean. Johnson averaged 17.6 points per game while Deming tossed in an average of 15.9 points per game.

The third member of the scoring trio for Waterloo is junior Chelsea Steinruck, who scored seven of her nine points in the fourth quarter against Olean. Steinruck has averaged 11.1 ppg and has helped the team during its current 10-game win streak, connecting on 79 percent of her shots from the field.

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