SCHENECTADY — Niskayuna couldn’t shake pesky Schenectady Friday night, until it started moving the basketball like it had before.
The Silver Warriors found each other with regularity in an 11-0 spurt early in the fourth quarter, and rode that run to a 57-47 Suburban Council win at the Pat Riley Sports Center.
“We stress that a lot,” Niskayuna coach Sarah Neely said after her team climbed over the .500 mark. “We want them to make a lot of passes. Go in and out. Motion. When it works, it works.”
It worked after a third quarter won by Schenectady, which reduced a 36-19 deficit to 42-31. Moments into the fourth, Talia Washington’s 3-point basket had the Patriots down 44-34.
“I’m giving Schenectady so much credit,” Neely said of a group that includes three freshmen and seven sophomores. “They’ve got a young team. They’ve got a small team. They kept coming at us. They fought hard.”
Washington, a 5-foot-3 ninth-grader, sparked Schenectady with 24 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Olivia Olsen, Niskayuna’s promising 6-2 sophomore, anchored her team with 31 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots.
“I’m so proud of the effort at both ends of the court,” second-year Schenectady coach James Thomas said. “Early in the season, if we got down, that was pretty much it. They fought.”
Niskayuna’s game-changing response was part defense and part offense, with four of the five baskets in the 11-0 run assisted layups.
“We got together at the end of the third quarter and switched our press from man-to-man to a 2-2-1, and that helped us get the ball,” Olsen said. “We also talked about more spacing.”
Olsen began the key run with a foul shot and turned a Natalie Prain pass into a layup. The sophomore later finished off the spree with another layup after handling a feed from Jocelynn Hamilton to make it 55-34 midway through the quarter. Neely cleared her bench soon after.
“She works extremely hard year round, and it shows,” Neely said of Olsen, who generated 22 first-half points. “She has unbelievable potential. I’m excited to see what happens with her.”
“Their bigs are tough,” Washington said of Niskayuna’s front line, before referring to Olsen. “I went to camp with her. She’s really aggressive.”
Hamilton finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds in the third straight win for Niskayuna (5-6 SC, 8-7 overall). The senior forward dropped in two layups during the 11-0 run.
“Jocelynn is our silent player,” Neely said. “She goes out and gets the job done. She’s not flashy, but she is athletic, she hits shots, runs the fast break and gives us putbacks. I’m very happy with the way she’s been playing.”
Washington said the same things about the entire Schenectady cast that’s experienced victory only twice, against non-league opponents Lansingburgh and Pine Bush.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Washington said. “I can see us coming on. We’ve got a lot of potential. We have to keep working together and keep talking and keep getting stronger.”
Schenectady fell behind 10-0, and trailed 20-6 at the end of one, but refused to wilt. Washington and Janessa Jones sank 3s in the Pats’ 12-6 third-quarter comeback.
Washington delivered 16 second-half points. Jones finished with 11 points and six steals.
“The girls are starting to care,” Thomas said. “The way they smacked the floor when something didn’t go their way, you could tell. They got angry.”
Souky 1-0-2, Mugits 1-0-2, Owens 0-2-2, Hamilton 8-0-16, Reffelt 1-0-2, Olsen 14-3-31, O’Meally-Turnbull 1-0-2. Totals: 26-5-57.
Bigelow-Smith 2-0-5, Dixon 1-0-3, Jones 4-0-11, Tchako-Tchuambe 2-0-4, Washington 7-6-24. Totals: 16-6-47.
Niskayuna 20 16 6 15 — 57
Schenectady 6 13 12 16 — 47