NISKAYUNA — It became clear early in the first quarter that breaking Niskayuna’s press would be a difficult obstacle for Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake to overcome.
Niskayuna started the game by converting many press-forced turnovers into fast-break layups as it jumped out to a quick first quarter lead of 15-1.
Niskayuna downed Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 73-23 in the Suburban Council girls’ basketball matchup Thursday at Jeff Blatnick Gym.
While the Silver Warrior’s lead became seemingly insurmountable by the second quarter, with the advantage growing to 33-8 at halftime, it was important for
Niskayuna coach Sara Neely’s players to keep up the intensity while maintaining a comfortable lead.
“We are a team that sometimes struggles, where we play a good first half and might struggle with the third quarter. We have been pushing consistency,” Neely said. “They know that we can never let down, no matter what the score. We just have to worry about how we play.”
Niskayuna did not let up in the second quarter. The Silver Warriors continued their first-quarter run into the second, bringing the scoring run to 21-1 in the middle of the second half.
During the second quarter, the Silver Warriors continued to successfully press, forcing turnovers leading to layups.
“We have been working on our press, it has definitely been getting stronger and stronger every game,” Neely said. “Good defense leads to good offensive opportunities.”
The Spartans did pick up their offense in the second half, including junior Alexus Hickok-Russell hitting a hook shot in the paint while being fouled, and hitting her free throw to make it 49-15. Kelly Andersen led the Spartans with six points.
The second half was highlighted by Niskayuna leading scorer Olivia Olsen. After only scoring three points in the first half, the 6-foot-4 center racked up 15 points in the second half. That included completing a pair of old-school three-point plays on consecutive possessions with put-back layups to put the Warriors ahead 55-15 in the third quarter.
Olsen finished the game with a team-high 18 points. She also helped Niskayuna on the boards and with a pair of blocked shots.
“I thought they maintained their composure and their intensity, and that is what our goal was,” Neely said of the team’s second half performance.
“I was impressed with how the team attacked the basket today,” Niskayuna guard Ivy Owens said.
Owens, who led the team with six points in the first quarter, was happy with one her plays in particular. In the third quarter she had a clean steal and took off to the other end and completed the lay-up while drawing contact for the foul.
“I was really proud I made my free throws,” Owens said.
The Silver Warriors have focused on knocking down more free throws, and going 14 of 20 in the win was an improvement.
Owens explained that the team now has to run anytime someone misses a free throw during practice.
“So that motivates us to hit them, especially when we are tired,” Owens said. “The pressure makes us better with free throws.”
Nine players scored for Niskayuna. When asked what girls’ performance impressed her the most, Neely could not point to just one player.
“Honestly, it was just a great team effort,” Neely said. I told the girls that everybody contributed tonight one way or the other. That is what we keep needing to do to be successful.”
With the victory, Niskayuna improved to 4-3, while Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake fell to 1-6.
BURNT HILLS-BALLSTON LAKE
Lescault 0-1-1, Pahl 0-1-1,Rzeszotarski 1-0-2, Morrison 0-2-2, Hickok-Russell 2-1-5, Andersen 1-4-6, Neary 1-0-2, Karl 2-0-4. Totals: 7-8-23.
Souky 4-0-10, Mugits 1-2-4, Owens 3-2-9, Hamilton 4-1-9, Collins 3-0-6, Reffelt 0-2-2, Prian 3-0-8, Olsen 7-4-18, O’Meally 2-3-7. Totals: 27-14-72.
Burnt Hills 1 7 7 8 — 23
Niskayuna 15 16 25 17— 73