The St. Mary's girls basketball team is hoping to continue its knack for being a part of March Madness.
The Lancers are headed to the Federation tournament this weekend, where they will compete for the overall state title for the second year in a row. The team, which made the Federation championship last year, earned its trip to Albany's Times Union Center by winning its second straight Catholic Class B title -- even though it finished its Monsignor Martin season by losing three out of four.
The Lancers used a 10-day break to tweak their game before winning the Catholic state championship March 13, and now are trying to make the best of a two-week layoff before tipping off Friday morning at 11:45 against state independent winner Long Island Lutheran.
"We got knocked out early in the Monsignor Martin playoffs -- it's like playing in the Big East tournament," said St. Mary's coach Keith Junik. "Marquette loses early and waits around for NCAA and they make a run. We lost to Holy Angels, and we spent the 10 days reworking everything -- we were in a bad way and we fixed it with some team building. We caught fire, and now here we are again, waiting for two weeks."
Junik said there was no major overhaul needed during this latest wait.
"We've just been trying to put the fun back into the game, not working their butts off," he said. "We're just fine-tuning and game-planning for Long Island Lutheran."
Lutheran represents the Alliance of Independent Schools. Lutheran lost to Nichols, 54-53, in a Connecticut tournament in December, and Junik got a scouting report from Nichols coach Ron Torgalski.
"They play some over-the-top man-to-man defense," Junik said. "We're going to throw some backdoor cuts at them and see what works."
St. Mary's will head down the Thruway with a sense of confidence after winning a Federation semifinal game last year and having five seniors back from that squad, including key starters Raeann Stilwell and Victoria Fontana.
This year the Federation moved from Glens Falls' 6,000-seat civic center to the 17,000-seat Times Union Center.
"We talked about that no matter how big the stage is, we need to do the things we like to do: play as a unit of five, make our cuts, play defense," said Junik. "It doesn't matter that we haven't seen the team we're just going to play and have a good time."