Christian Dufort was a problem for the Schenectady boys’ basketball team on Monday.
Until he wasn’t. Then it was someone else’s turn.
Dufort had a strong game inside for Saratoga Springs, but fouled out with 2:33 left and the Blue Streaks clinging to a 48-43 lead.
Saratoga got five points off the bench over the final minutes and clinched it on Zach Carpenter’s 3-pointer to produce the final score, a 53-45 Saratoga win at the Pat Riley Sports Complex.
Dufort finished with 15 points, and was grateful for the bench support.
“I was obviously upset, because I wanted to be out there,” he said. “But I trusted the next guy coming in and trusted the guys that were out there to get the job done, and they did.”
“Zach hit a huge shot that put us in control,” Saratoga head coach Matt Usher said. “We had guys step up down the stretch off the bench. Zach hitting the shot, Ethan Straughter inside with a big move and Evan Ash taking a charge down at the other end. That’s what we needed.”
Saratoga (5-1) appeared to take control of the game with a 12-1 run for a 38-29 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Dufort and Kaleb Lewis accounted for all of the Blue Streaks’ points during that run, and all of the field goals in that stretch came in the paint, including three baskets on put-backs.
Lewis scored eight of his 11 points in the run.
“They’re strong, they do everything right underneath,” Schenectady head coach John Miller said. “It was difficult to cover that. I felt like we did a pretty good job with that in the first half, and then we just got a little tired at the end.”
“We tried to focus on going inside and getting some baskets around the rim, whether it was in the post or on the ‘O’ boards,” Usher said. “And when we’re effective, we look to do that. We’ve got to stop settling for quick jump shots. Especially when they’re not going down.”
The Patriots (4-2) scratched their way back into it, as Damari Holder, who finished with 14 points, hit a 3 and scored inside to bring Schenectady within 39-38 in the early stages of the fourth quarter.
Jahsean Haggray scored on a drive to get Schenectady within 42-40, and the Patriots came up with a steal on the inbounds, but committed an offensive foul trying to convert the steal into a quick basket.
Dufort scored inside for a 48-42 lead, but picked up his fifth foul moments later.
Khalik Mayfield hit a jumper in transition to get Schenectady within 48-45, but Saratoga answered with Straughter’s score inside, just his second field goal of the game.
After Schenectady missed, Carpenter swished a 3 from the right diagonal for his only points of the game.
“That was the dagger,” Dufort said. “It really sealed it. He’s good shooter, so I’m glad he’s shooting with confidence.”
“Chris was playing great for us throughout the game,” Usher said. “When he fouled out, we were hoping somebody would step up and hit a shot and make a play for us down the stretch.”
“We kind of stymied that [outside shooting] the whole game,” Miller said. “We didn’t have a big issue with it. But they hit the shot when they had to. I felt like overall we played a very good basketball team. They’re just a solid team, and the size was just a little bothersome for us.”
Saratoga Springs 12 14 12 15 — 53
Schenectady 9 17 7 12 — 45
Saratoga Springs scoring: Larkin 1-0-3, Waite 1-0-2, Carpenter 1-1-4, Britton 6-2-14, Straughter 2-0-4, Lewis 4-3-11, Dufort 7-1-15. Schenectady scoring: Holder 6-0-14, Haggray 3-4-10, Rivero 3-1-7, Mayfield 3-0-6, C. Davis 2-1-5, Peters 1-0-2, Gomez 0-1-1. Scoring totals: Saratoga Springs 22-7-53, Schenectady 18-7-45.