By Jerry Del Priore
After losing by close margins in the last two New York State Federation A Championships, James Madison High School girls basketball team is back, poised and determined to take the top prize this weekend in Glenn Falls, New York.
Last Saturday, the Lady Golden Knights upended Medgar Evers College Prep, 56-49, in the PSAL A Finals. And Madison is confident going into the final weekend of the girls’ hoop season.
The Golden Knights have arguably the best staring five in the Empire State, with four of the five playing together for several years.
“The whole starting five is all in it together and we play well together,” center Melinda Feratovic, who’s headed to Division I Broward College (FL) in September, said. “We all do it as a team. There’s not really a leader. I feel like all five of us put in the same amount (of leadership).”
Sarah James, a four-year starter, feels winning the elusive title will be the cherry on top of a great run at Madison High School. She noted that all it has to do is play as a cohesive unit and everything else will fall into place.
“It would be good (to win States) because it’s our senior year, so we want to end up on top, and we want to take everything,” forward Sarah James said of the seven girls wanting to leave the program on a winning note. “We just need to play our game and stay focused, and we should be fine.”
Though most of the PSAL campaign was a cakewalk, beating teams by 30, 32, 38 and 17 points in the postseason, Medgar Evers did test the Lady Golden Knights in the finals, especially in the fourth quarter.
And head coach Richard Tighe and Ericka James feel it was a positive thing.
“If you don’t have a fear of losing, what fun is winning? On Saturday, we had to overcome, and that was really a wonderful thing,” Tighe said. “They gave us a shot, and we had to take the shot and overcome. That’s what makes sports fun.”
“It made us realize that we have to wake up,” Ericka James, Sarah’s twin sister, admitted. “Throughout the whole playoffs, we kind of walked through (it), so it was good we had some competition to get us ready for States.”
Sophomore Amanda James, a bit player on the squad and younger sister of the twins, sang the praises of fab five’s devotion to the club.
“My sisters, Alina Estrella, Melinda Feratovic, and Deidra Foster’s dedication to this team is unmatched,” James said. “They’ve honestly earned everything that they gave this team, and me, which is two rings, by the way.”
Estrella, Madison’s starting point guard who is headed to Daemen College in the fall to study physical therapy and play hoops, if the course workload isn’t too much, she said, likes the team’s chances, and said it’s ready to go all out to finally win the big one.
“I fell really confident about this year, because this is our last year to take it all. So we have to give everything we got,” Estrella said. “Our dedication to this team is unmatched, like Amanda James said. So I feel really good about States.”
With star center Ketsia Athias at New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) – a Division II hoops program on Westbury, Long Island, that plays in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), Foster received a lot more hardwood time, and performed well, averaging 13.93 ppg and 12.4 rebounds during the regular season.
“I don’t think no one can replace Ketsia, because she made up for a lot of our mistakes,” Foster said. “But it did bring us out of our shells more because we had to do more on the court all together.”
And the Lady Knights did collectively, going 19-0 during the season en route to their third straight PSAL A Crown.
Madison will face Pittsford Mendon (Syracuse) — New York State Public High School Athletic Association state champs — Friday in the first round.