By Sean Lynch
HYDE PARK — It was the middle of November when first-year varsity head coach Jessica Paden gathered the FDR Roosevelt girls basketball team and asked them to write a goal on a post-it note.
Some wanted to win the state championship, while others wanted to qualify for the Section 9 playoffs. There was a feeling of uncertainty about what the Presidents were capable of this season.
A year prior, Roosevelt was the No. 1 seed in the Section 9 Class AA tournament before losing to eventual-champion Kingston after a first round bye. With a slight decrease in enrollment, Roosevelt was moved down to Class A this season.
Paden, the former junior-varsity coach, succeeded Cliff Sauer after he stepped down last off-season. She graduated from Roosevelt in 2007 and was previously the junior-varsity coach, prior to becoming head coach.
They returned ten players from last year’s team, including four starters, which they dub as the ‘core four’. The foursome has played together on varsity since 2014-15.
The core four is made up of senior captain Kamryn Hammond and junior guards Kelsea Demelis, Jaelen Daubon & Deliah Smith
How They Got Here
One of the hottest teams in Section 9 — FDR has won 12 straight games. 11-of-those-12 wins were against playoff teams from their respective sections, including twice over Class B champion Marlboro and once to Class AA runner-up Warwick.
Based on the Section 9 playoff bracket, No. 5 seed Roosevelt pulled off upsets against No. 4 Red Hook, No. 1 Cornwall, and No. 2 Saugerties en route to the Section 9 Class A title.
FDR had lost twice to Saugerties in the regular season before beating them in the final.
It’s FDR’s first time being in the NYS playoffs as a Section 9 team. In 1986, they won the state championship as a Section 1 team.
Roosevelt finished the season 16-4, and was the No. 5 seed in the Section 9 playoffs after a loss to Class C foe Millbrook dropped them down in the Section 9 point system that determines playoff seeds.
Coaches sometimes use the expression “It’s not about how you start, instead it’s about how you finish,” and that phrase could be used to describe Roosevelt, who have won 12 consecutive games.
Two of those games came in the MHAL (Mid Hudson Athletic League) tournament. FDR avenged their earlier season loss to Millbrook, beating them 58-38 in the championship game, and won its first ever Section 9 MHAL tournament.
“When we wrote our goals on post-it notes, some girls wrote to win the state championship, others wanted to improve their individual skills, but I wanted to win MHAL’s, said co-captain Kamryn Hammond. “It was something that’s gotten away from us in recent years and I wanted to win it so badly.”
Support from the Community
At every FDR girls basketball game this season, there were a handful of middle school girls in attendance to watch the older girls play. The younger girls had won their CYO basketball championship a few weeks prior and cheered on the varsity team hoping that they would win their championship too.
Last week during the school-day, Roosevelt principal Rick Pardy called the girls down to his office to congratulate them on their title victory.
“The kids always use us as their motivation and that’s really cool,” Hammond added. “They were so happy when they won their championship and told us to win ours. Overall, it’s been awesome to get the support we’ve gotten. It’s been awhile since we’ve made it this far, and we want to keep making our school proud.”
Film, Film … and More Film
Roosevelt’s final practice before their regional final game vs. Binghamton-Seton Catholic was a long one. The team practiced for three hours, and was followed by a 90 minute film session.
Most teams might sigh when they hear about an upcoming three hour practice and then a film session afterwards, but the players on the team looked forward to it because of how much its helped them.
“We watch a ton of film,” Hammonds explained. “Before we played Saugerties, we watched hours-worth of film and it’s helped us as a team. We knew their tendencies, names & numbers and what hand is their most-dominant. It’s very different watching a team in-person compared to on film. When we played Tappan Zee, we went to their (Section 1) final and learned a lot.
A Team with a Family Bond
When Kelsea Demelis scored her 1,000th career point in the Class A final last week, there was a genuine sense of jubilation on the court. Teammates rushed towards her with their arms wide open and smiles that stretched across their faces.
“There’s definitely a family vibe to this team” said Paden after the Class A championship win. “Most of these girls know me from being their JV coach, but I think them being teammates for so long definitely brings out the best of them on the court.”
Assistant coaches Sharee Daniels & Sara Miller are both former players for Roosevelt.
“This team has probably the best chemistry out of any other team I’ve been on,” exclaimed Hammond. “When we’re on the court together, we know where everyone will be and we trust each other. It’s always good to have great chemistry against the best-of-the-best because those are the teams where things may not be going right, and you’ll need to trust your teammates the most.”
Roosevelt plays Binghamton-Seton Hall on Sunday at 10:30 p.m. at the Floyd L. Maines Arena in Binghamton.
Binghamton-Seton Hall is led by 6-foot-1 forward tandem Julia Hauer & Marina Maerkl.
Hauer scored 1,000 points and grabbed 1,000 rebounds before her senior season and committed to play for Division I Siena next season. Maerkl scored 1,000 points this season and committed to play at Daemen College — a Division II school just outside of Buffalo.