The Times Union, 3/23/99

Higgins comes out scoring

Perfect from the floor, Shen backup guard shines in state tourney games

With guards Colleen Tabor, Amy Comer, and Emily Cashera all graduating off this year’s Shenendehowa girls basketball team, there will be plenty of pressure on next year’s backcourt to perform at a high level.

Sophomore Deanna Higgins proved over the weekend that she’s ready to carry on the tradition.

Higgins, Shenendehowa’s top reserve guard this season, had a perfect shooting weekend at the Final Four - 4-for-4 from the field, 4-for-4 from the line, finishing with 14 points

“This is a dream, it really is” Higgins said. “Coming to all the games as a little kid and seeing Shen win everything ... but now, its our team. It’s a great team, it really is.”

And these shots weren’t in garbage time, either. Quite the contrary, in fact.

In Friday night’s semifinal victory over Sachern, Higgins scored 10 points - despite the fact she was being guarded primarily by Sachem’s AllAmerican guard, Nicole Kaczmarski, who only has two years, eight inches and about 2,500 points over Higgins.

No matter. Higgins came off the bench to drill a 3-pointer with 1:11 left in the first half against Sachern, sending Shenendehowa into the locker room with a 24-19 lead.

Then in the fourth quarter, with Shen nursing a mere three-point lead, Higgins stuck another 3-pointer, this with 7:25 left in the game, to spark a 12-5 Shenendehowa run which eventually gave the Plainsmen a 10-point lead.

She had another basket during that spurt, and it was a backbreaker for the Flaming Arrows. Shenendehowa junior Jolene Johnston had a shot blocked with two seconds left on the shot clock, but Higgins darted into the lane, grabbed the ball and sent a high-arcing layup gently off the backboard and through the basket as the shot-clock buzzer sounded.

The run ended with 3:40 left in the game, when Megg Richards, another sophomore, took a no-look pass from - you guessed it, Higgins - and scored easily for a 52-42 Shen advantage.

And with 21 seconds left, Higgins coolly buried both ends of a 1-and-1 free throw situation, giving Shenendehowa a 58-52 lead. “Dee is probably our best ballhandler. I’m sure they figured, hey, she’s the guard off the bench, you guard her,” Shenendehowa coach Ken Strube said after the 61-54 semifinal victory.

“Well, Dee made them pay big-time with those two 3s. And what about the hoop inside with the trees around her? And then with the game on the line, she nails two free throws.”

She saved some more heroics for Saturday, adding another chapter to her state tournament legend in Shenendehowa’s 63-57 championship victory over Ursuline.

Here’s the situation: Shenendehowa was leading 59-57 with 54 seconds left. It’s leading scorer, Johnston, had fouled out more than two minutes earlier. The Ursuline contingent was in a frenzy, and things did not look overly promising for the Plainsmen.

So what does Higgins, supposedly a timid little sophomore, do? She throws a behind-the-back, no-look pass to a surprised Richards on the left post. Richards wasn’t expecting it, but managed to corral the pass and get fouled. She made one free throw, and Ursuline never scored again.

“Dee’s an awesome passer,” Richards said. “She’s so crafty with the ball. She’s awesome. But I was a little surprised”

“She just goes right for it. She’s unbelievable like that. She’s so smooth,” Comer said. “it doesn’t bother us as long as it gets there.”

Which it did. And the championship trophy followed moments later.

Congratulations Dee!!!


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