JOHNSTOWN - The Fulton-Montgomery Community College women's basketball team came so close last year to winning a National Junior College Athletic Association Region III championship last year.
Eight points, to be exact, as they fell 64-56 to Onondaga Community College in the title game.
On Thursday, the Lady Raiders will begin their quest to overcome those eight points and win a regional title when they visit Troy to take on Hudson Valley Community College.
Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s Cheryl Osborne (21) puts up a shot during a?Feb. 25 game against Mohawk Valley Community College at FMCC. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
FMCC will embark on its mission with only three returning players from last year's team, as they return one of their key offensive players, Cheryl Osborne, who was an all-tournament and all-region all-star last season. Also back are Grace Rutagengwa of Duanesburg and Domonique Mitchell of Staten Island.
"[Rutagengwa] should be a nice piece for us," Jones said.
Mitchell came off the bench for the Lady Raiders last year as a guard, but she could expect additional playing time this season, possibly as a starter.
Nov. 1at Hudson Valley C.C.5 p.m.
Nov. 4North Country C.C.1 p.m.
Nov. 6at Adirondack C.C.5 p.m.
Nov. 10Cayuga3 p.m.
Nov. 13at Jefferson6 p.m.
Nov. 15SUNY Delhi5 p.m.
Nov. 17at Alfred State TourneyTBA
Nov. 18at Alfred State TourneyTBA
Nov. 20at Mohawk Valley C.C.6 p.m.
Nov. 27at Broome C.C.7 p.m.
Dec. 4at Finger Lakes C.C.7 p.m.
Jan. 10Herkimer C.C.5 p.m.
Jan. 15Clinton C.C.5 p.m.
Jan. 18Adirondack C.C.4 p.m.
Jan. 20at North Country C.C.1 p.m.
Jan. 24Hudson Valley CC5 p.m.
Jan 26at Schenectady County C.C.1 p.m.
Jan. 27at Onondaga C.C.1 p.m.
Feb. 2at Clinton C.C.1 p.m.
Feb. 7at Herkimer C.C.5 p.m.
Feb. 14Schenectady County C.C.5 p.m.
Feb. 19at SUNY Delhi5 p.m.
Feb. 23Mohawk Valley C.C.1 p.m.
The rest of the team is made up of newcomers, which includes one sophomore, Samantha McCloud of Albany, and nine freshmen.
"We've really got a nice group of freshmen coming in," Jones said. "I think they're all going to contribute.
Jones said Takima Lucky of Brooklyn is a hard-nosed defender and will be the team's point guard, while Cassandra Flowers of Manhattan shoots the 3-pointer very well. Most of the guards are combination players that can play multiple spots.
The guards also are athletic, which could create turnovers
"We'll be able to force some people into making mistakes," Jones said.
One of the key questions Jones had about his team this year was what kind of presence the Lady Raiders would have on the inside as they lost three 6-foot centers off last year's team, Jocelyn Cummings, Jigcara Grant and Antonia Williams.
This year, the Lady Raiders won't be quite as tall inside, although he did bring in Fonda-Fultonville graduate Sarah Wyzomirski, a 6-foot-4 center. She is the only local player on the roster and the only center listed on the roster. Sherice Gayle of Queens is listed as 5-foot-11, while Danea Sisti of Utica and Rutayenyewa are listed at 5-foot-9.
During a jamboree at Mohawk Valley Community College and during their scrimmages, the inside players were able to score inside points despite not having the height last year's team had.
"They're physical and will do some nice stuff around the basket this year," Jones said. "I think that will be helpful throughout the season."
The Lady Raiders were co-champions last year with Mohawk Valley, who Jones expects to again be a power in the Mountain Valley Conference and in Region III. Should they return to regional play, Onondaga is still lurking in the Mid-State Conference.
But this Jones' goals for the team are to win the MVC and find a way past regionals and into the NJCAA tournament. To get there, the three returning players will need to guide the newcomers quickly.
"Those three will provide some leadership throughout the year," Jones said. Game experience is critical at this level. Those three have definitely played. We will look for them to guide the freshmen to see what we can do throughout the region, again."