STILLWATER — There’s no Wasaren League title to play for in 2021, and no Section II or NYSPHSAA crown to chase after, either.
But Mechanicville and Stillwater met Tuesday night — and that means those rivals had plenty to play for that night.
Mechanicville has put together another impressive campaign, but few wins will be sweeter than their season sweep over their archrival. Mechanicville competed that sweep Tuesday, as it left the Warriors’ building on their senior night with a 70-59 victory.
“In all honesty, it seems like every time we play it’s senior night,” Mechanicville head coach Rian Richardson said. “We come in [and] it’s a hard fought game. Whether it’s senior night or not senior night, both teams really want to win and both teams are going to fight and get after it.”
The parents of Stillwater’s senior players and cheerleaders were allowed to attend the senior-night game, which meant even a bit more to the Stillwater community than a normal senior night. The team found out 24 hours before tip-off that head coach Bruce Lilac had entered into a pandemic-related quarantine, and would be unavailable for the big game Tuesday night.
“The last 24 hours has been a little crazy,” said assistant coach Pete D’Aloia, who coached Tuesday’s game. “Very emotional [with] coach Lilac not being able to be here, and the fact that it being senior night and against Mechanicville, our biggest rival, it’s been tough on some of the kids. It really has. There were some tears shed last night when they knew he wasn’t going to be here. But, thankfully, he’s healthy, and we did our best to prepare.”
Once the game began, both teams locked in. Mechanicville (11-1) came out the gates moving the ball and always looking for the extra pass, which became a theme to its offense all night.
Stillwater (6-6) responded with a high-pressure defense, but many of the team’s attempts for steals ended with whistles rather than fast-break attempts. By the second quarter, the hosts settled in, limited their own turnovers, and started to turn the tide. After trailing by seven after the first eight minutes of play, they cut it to 31-30 at the half.
“Everybody played for each other,” said Stillwater senior Tyler Peffen. “We knew this would be our last game at home together as seniors. Just play with each other, for each other.”
Despite several waves of offense and raised intensity in the second half from the Warriors, Mechanicville stayed tough.
“I’ve got some good senior leadership that has been with me that last few years, so they kept their composure for the most part,” Richardson said. “But, yeah, we knew the game could get chippy and we talked about it ahead of time. We talked about it during timeouts, and you’ve got to keep your head and you’ve got to prevail and you’ve got to hope they make the mistake and not us. Tonight, it worked out that way.”
The key to Mechanicville’s offense in the second half was senior Luci D’Ambro. A four-year starter, D’Ambro scored 15 of his game-high 24 points, and grabbed four of his eight rebounds, in the third quarter.
He gave a lot of the credit to his teammates.
“It’s amazing. Some of us have been playing together since we were [in] third grade,” D’Ambro said. “We know where we’re going to go and when we’re going to do it.”
Richardson also could not say enough about his team’s ball movement.
“I’ve got nine unselfish kids,” he said. “I can truly say they want to win and they don’t care about their own points. You saw that tonight, and I told them at one point midway through the second, ‘Guys, people are going to talk to me tonight who are watching at home and just tell me how unselfish we are.’”
Each team has two games left to play in this abbreviated high school basketball that started late because of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will end without area and state playoffs being conducted. Stillwater next takes on Schuylerville on Friday, while Mechanicville is set to take on South Glens Falls on Friday.
Both groups have five seniors preparing for the end their last high school season after a decade of playing with the same guys.
“We’ve been together for a while. It’s definitely sad because I’ve been with these guys since I was a kid,” Stillwater senior Isaac Cutler-Mujjumbire said. “I grew up with them. We have a very good connection that can’t be broken. It’s really nice to play with these guys of the last four years.”
Mechanicville 20 11 21 18 — 70
Stillwater 13 17 16 13 — 59
Mechanicville scoring: D’Ambro 10-4-24, Egan 3-0-7, Eiseman 4-0-8, Garland 3-3-11, Johnson 1-0-2, McCabe 2-0-4, Richardson 4-3-11, Salustri 1-0-3. Stillwater scoring: Baker 3-0-9, Cutler 3-0-6, Dunn 1-0-2, Dyer 1-0-2, Hotaling 1-0-2, Lilac 5-1-14, McNeil 1-0-2, Paffen 4-4-12, Zecca 4-0-10. Scoring totals: Mechanicville 28-10-70, Stillwater 23-5-59.