Spartans pick up intensity in rally
BURNT HILLS With a huge second-half rally, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake forged the bounce-back win it so badly desired Tuesday night.
“We definitely wanted to come back with a stonger performance. We were motivated,” senior guard Robbie Knightes said after the Spartans overhauled Saratoga Springs, 66-53, in a Suburban Council North Division game. “You never want to be the team playing the team that got beat by 30 in their last game.”
Burnt Hills picked up its defensive intensity in the second half, and Knightes scored 21 of his season-high 28 points in the turnaround stretch as the Spartans avenged an early-season loss to the Blue Streaks and got back into the victory column after Friday’s humbling 82-53 loss to Guilderland.
The only time Burnt Hills scored fewer points was in its season-opening 59-50 setback at Saratoga Springs in early December.
“We challenged them after Friday’s game. I’m sure we’ll bring that game up again sometime in the future as a reminder of what it felt like,” said BH-BL coach Gary Bynon.
Bynon challenged his team again Tuesday at the halftime break, after it had fallen behind, 36-24. The Spartans went on an 18-9 third-quarter run before putting together a 24-9 fourth-quarter spurt that included Knights’ final 12 points.
“We gave up some easy baskets. We missed some foul shots. We made some hustle plays, and then we gave it right back to them,” Bynon said of the first half. “We needed to get rid of all that.”
David Wellington turned a steal into a layup, and Burnt Hills forced a 35-second shot clock violation to begin the third quarter. Knightes and Austin Nydegger followed with three-point baskets. The Spartans continued to chip away from the field and the foul line while flustering the Blue Streaks with their defensive pressure.
“Coach hounded us at the half, and that definitely helped us,” said Knightes. “When we came out, we were way more intense.”
Knightes gave Burnt Hills its first lead since 2-0 on a drive through traffic early in the fourth quarter, 47-46, and delivered eight points in a 15-1 flurry that closed out the contest.
Josh Quesada netted all six of his points in that game-ending burst, starting with a three that made it 54-52. Knightes later added his third and fourth three-pointers.
“We started moving the ball around,” said Knightes. “We went with our motion offense, and it worked.”
Chris Byno sank a free throw and Jonathan Rach scored on a putback to give the Blue Streaks a 52-51 advantage before Quesada’s three with four minutes left. Quesada, a junior guard, also dropped in a short jumper and made a free throw as BH-BL’s lead grew.
“You could feel the momentum. The fans were with us,” said Knightes. “We rode the wave.”
Senior forward Max Batty played a significant second-half role for the Spartans (5-7, 6-8), despite scoring only three of his five points. He pulled down all eight of his rebounds and had all three of his assists during the key stretch, plus he picked up two of his three blocked shots and drew a charge.
“We had a lot of great hustle in the second half,” said Knightes. “Max was a big part of that. He did a lot of good things that affected the game.”
Wellington finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, Nydegger had eight points, four assists and five rebounds, and Eric Dillon added eight points, four assists and six rebounds.
“Tonight was a physical, possession game,” said Bynon. “I liked what we did tonight. I was impressed with these kids.”
Taylor Mickle came off the bench to score a team-best 16 points for Saratoga (4-7, 6-8), 12 coming in the first half, while Rach had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Jesse Alexander also had 10, with his putback hoop giving the Blue Streaks a 42-36 third-quarter lead.
Byno sank a three to cap off the Blue Streaks 11-3 run to end the first quarter, and another three by the sophomore started a 12-2 surge to end the half. Mickle had three layups in that run, each assisted by Nick Smith, who had five off the Streaks 11 first-half assists.
“At the half, we talked about playing better basketball at both ends,” said Bynon. “We talked about winning little battles, and we went out and did that.”
Knightes went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line — all in second half — as part of his 28-point performance. His previous season high was 27 points in a 66-54 win over Averill Park.
Alexander 4-2-10, Arciero 1-1-3, Byno 2-1-7, Ellis 0-1-1, Mickle 7-2-16, Rach 5-0-10, Smith 2-1-6. Totals: 21-8-53.
BURNT HILLS-BALLSTON LAKE
Wellington 5-1-11, Quesada 2-1-6, Knightes 8-8-28, Batty 2-1-5, Nydegger 3-0-8, Dillon 4-0-8. Totals: 24-11-66.
Saratoga Springs 17 19 8 9 — 53
BH-BL 9 15 18 24 — 66
Three-point goals: Byno 2, Smith, Quesada, Knightes 4, Nydegger 2.