BURNT HILLS — After season-starting losses to Saratoga Springs and Shenendehowa, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys’ basketball team was looking to reverse its fortune Wednesday night in its game with Ballston Spa.
With a bounce-back performance, that’s just what the Spartans did in what proved to be a special victory for senior AJ Giaquinto and his second-year coach, Kevin Himmelwright.
“We did a lot of self-reflecting after the Shenendehowa game,” Himmelwright said following his team’s 64-52 win against the Scotties. “We got after it in the gym. Defense was the focus, and it showed up tonight.”
Burnt Hills gave up 21 second-half points while scoring 39, and Giaquinto accounted for 20 of those as part of a senior night win, which was also the first Suburban Council win for Himmelwright after an oh-for 2019-20 campaign.
“The guys on the court played fantastic defense, and our bench came through with the energy that kept us pumped up,” Giaquinto said. “All 13 guys were so positive.”
The only lull came in the second quarter, when Ballston Spa used a 16-0 run to go up at the half 31-25.
“Some of the guys were worrying about what was happening at the offensive end,” Himmelwright said of the Scotties’ push. “They let the offense carry over to the defense, and they [Ballston Spa] got hungry and kind of shocked us.”
Burnt Hills turned the game back in its direction in the third frame with a 23-7 run that saw Giaquinto net 12 of his career-high 31 points.
Burnt Hills started the third quarter with a 10-0 spurt that Giaquinto began with a layup and a 3-pointer, and the Spartans strung another 10 points later in the frame when Giaquinto sank two foul shots, converted a three-point play and turned a steal into a layup.
“He’s a stud,” Himmelwright said of Giaquinto, who added five assists, four rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot.
That there were no fans to take in his big scoring game due to COVID-19 restrictions didn’t phase the three-year varsity player much.
“My parents are big supporters,” said Giaquinto, whose previous scoring high was 29 in a loss to Ballston Spa last season. “They were here. That’s what means the most to me.”
Giaquinto meant a lot to the Spartans with the way he aggressively attacked the basket and smartly found his teammates when Ballston Spa adjusted and closed down the lane a little more effectively.
“My first instinct is to get to the basket. They were pressing me high and I felt I could get by them,” Giaquinto said. “They started to give a lot of help and I told my guys, ‘If you start to hit, we’re going to win the game.'”
Burnt Hills senior Jordan Bocketti scored all of his 11 points in the second half, including a trio of 3s, and sophomore Alex Doin added two of his three 3s in the second half.
“Once they started to fall, we knew it was going to be a good game,” Giaquinto said.
Burnt Hills raced to an 18-10 first-quarter lead when Tim Marro, the Spartans third senior, nailed three 3s.
“Hats off to the guys,” said Himmelwright, a 2006 Burnt Hills graduate. “This was a good overall game and something to feed off of. Hopefully, we can continue to do what we did tonight.”
Andrew Wright had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Ballston Spa (0-2).
“We thought this would be a good opportunity for us,” said Himmelwright, whose cast had lost to Shenendehowa by 41 points Saturday and to Saratoga by 10 the day before that. “At the same time we knew Ballston Spa would be a tough and gritty opponent. They competed, they really did.”
Ballston Spa 10 21 7 14 — 52
Burnt Hills 18 7 23 16 — 64
Ballston Spa scoring: Brundige 1-1-3, Kramer 3-0-6, Haight 5-0-10, Phillips 3-3-9, Guarino 2-0-6, Verdile 4-1-9, Blair 2-1-5, Staszak 1-2-4. Burnt Hills scoring: Bocketti 4-0-11, Doin 3-0-9, Giaquinto 9-12-31, Haluska 1-2-4, Marro 3-0-9. Scoring totals: Ballston Spa 21-8-52, Burnt Hills 20-14-64.