Saratoga continues basketball streak, beats Bethlehem

Blue Streaks win 10th in a row
West Coast and jockey Mike Smith win the 2017 Travers at Saratoga.
West Coast and jockey Mike Smith win the 2017 Travers at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — In a way, the basketball game Friday night between Saratoga Springs and Bethlehem mirrored the Blue Streaks’ season.

They started off slow, and then picked a load of steam in winning for the 10th straight time, 69-44, in a Suburban Council matchup. The Blue Streaks dropped their first two contests, to Westhill and CBA, before embarking on their run.

“We talked to the kids after the first few games about getting better day by day,” Saratoga coach Matt Usher said. “We still talk about that. ‘Let’s keep getting better’.”

The Suburban Council Grey Division leaders did that Friday after falling behind 8-6. By the third quarter their lead had grown to 40 (56-16), and another quality win was assured. Saratoga (10-1, 10-2) had previously beaten Shenendehowa, Troy and Colonie, last season’s Section II Class AA runner-up to Bethlehem.

“Hard work in practice,” Saratoga senior guard AJ Lawton said of his team’s lengthy win streak. “Guys are buying in. Ever since that start we’ve jelled and come together.”

A lot of Blue Streaks contributed to the cause Friday. Lawton and Brian Hart led the starting cast with 12 points apiece, Andrew Patnode came off the bench and had  9, and though reserve Will Fox didn’t score at all he snared four rebounds, set up two baskets and provided defensive length down low when the hosts were building their first-half lead.

“We’ve got eight, nine guys we rotate and on any night it could be a different guy with points or defense,” Usher said.

Saratoga effectively combined both offense and defense in game-changing runs, going on a 9-0 spurt in the first quarter and a 14-0 spree in the second.

“We focus on every possession,” Lawton said. “We don’t take any possessions off. We act like its 0-0 regardless of the situation.”

The Blue Streaks put together a 16-0 flurry in the third when Lawton nailed a trio of 3-pointers, and three others had baskets.

“They’re a balanced team,” Bethlehem coach A.J. Irons said. “They remind me of our squad last year.”

The lone returning starter from the Eagles’ title-winning team and one Section II’s  finest guards, junior Mike Ortale, missed his fifth straight league game with an ankle injury. Bethehem (8-3, 8-6) had won the four games prior to Friday’s.

“It’s not point production. It’s everything else,” Irons said. “He [Ortale] will give you 10, 15 rebounds, a couple of blocks, six to eight assists. He does a lot of little things. He’s energy. How much I don’t know, but I think he would have made a difference.”

Saratoga held Bethlehem scoreless for 4:55 to begin the second quarter, and didn’t allow a third-quarter basket until there were 23 seconds left.

“We’ve beaten some good teams but we don’t want it to go to our heads,” Lawton said. “We’ve still got a lot of ball left.”


DiBacco 2-0-5, Barnes 0-1-1, Salo 5-1-11, Davis 1-0-2, Harvey 1-2-4, Ryan 1-0-2, Wakefield 4-5-14, J. Leclair 0-2-2, B. Lwclair 1-0-2, Signor 0-1-1. Totals: 15-12-44.


Larkin 3-0-8, Hart 4-3-12, Holmes 2-1-5, Ni. Chudy 3-0-7, Lawton 4-0-12, Davis 2-2-6, Na. Chudy 2-0-4, Steingraber 3-0-6, Patnode 4-1-9. Totals: 27-7-69.

Bethlehem 9 5 7 23 – 44

Saratoga 13 22 21 13 – 69

Three-point goals: DiBacco, Wakefield, Larkin 2, Hart, Ni. Chudy, Lawton 4.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.


Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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