Averill Park girls’ basketball begins practicing Monday

Having the start of practice delayed one week because one player contracted the coronavirus was the latest issue to be dealt with for the Averill Park girls’ basketball team. Getting back out on the hardwood Monday for practice as a team for the first time together was worth savoring for the Warriors.

“It was a good day, to say the least,” Averill Park girls’ basketball coach Sean Organ said. “I was really proud of my kids. Many of them have been so inactive. Throughout the wait, we only had four open gyms during the school year and they were so spread out.”

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin last month provided schools in the county permission to begin practicing Feb. 1 for winter sports deemed high-risk activities by the New York State Department of Health. Schools in the county were given the chance to begin preparation for the sports of basketball, hockey and wrestling. Averill Park’s school board approved them to move forward, but the girls’ basketball team had to wait.

Although its season will consist of only one month and is devoid of sectional or state tournaments, Averill Park is thrilled to be back competing. The Warriors defeated Queensbury 52-39 in the 2020 Section II Class A title game, the program’s seventh straight championship and 12th since 2006. After beating Franklin Academy 73-28 in the state playoffs, Averill Park had the remainder of its state title pursuit canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is definitely better than nothing,” Averill Park senior guard Anna Jankovic said. “When the holidays hit and the (infection rate) numbers were going crazy, I was like there is just no way we’re going to play. There is a point where you don’t try to get your hopes up because I didn’t want to be let down like I was last spring. I am very happy that the numbers are under control and that we can be back.”

“It really felt great to be back in the gym with coach Organ, (assistant coach Scott) Keegan and my team today,” Averill Park sophomore point guard Amelia Wood said. “I am so grateful for this opportunity. I didn’t think we were going to play this season.”

Jankovic said hearing Organ and Keegan tell the team Monday to hit the line for wind sprints was remarkably appealing when it is usually dreaded.

“I was so happy to hear it again,” Jankovic said. “Even if you are tired or don’t want to run, just to be back in the gym and to hear things like that made me really happy.”

The Warriors get one week of practice before opening their season on Feb. 15 at home against Niskayuna, which will serve as the team’s Senior Night.

“We have emphasized to our kids to take a simple approach: let’s get through today and this practice,” Organ said. “Let’s make this the best practice we can make it and if we have a tomorrow, let’s come in the gym and find a way to get better than we were the previous day. The only long-term goal that we have at this point is I want to get our seniors on the floor (Feb. 15). If we can get past that, I will feel a sense of relief for them.”

Organ said he wants his players to enjoy the time spent together and value the experience for what it is.

“This season isn’t about winning or losing, but getting the chance to be back on the court,” Wood said. “At Averill Park, we are all so close. It is really like family, so it literally means the world to me to back together.”

“Having basketball back and to be with some of my closest friends again is really nice,” Jankovic said.

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