CLIFTON PARK — The Shenendehowa boys’ basketball found itself in a real fight with Niskayuna Wednesday night, but looking at the final score, you’d never have known it.
The Suburban Council tournament semifinal was tied at 33 with just over five minutes left. The Plainsmen walked off their gym floor with a 53-34 victory.
“We’re 14-0 because we have 12 kids that are willing to put the team before themselves,” Shenendehowa coach Tony Dzikas said. “That’s been the secret all year.”
The Plainsmen did their team thing at the highest rate in the final minutes, with some superb passing leading to points and the hosts playing a 3-2 zone that proved difficult to dent.
“It got to a point where we had to figure out a way to make stops and score,” Niskayuna coach Mike Grasso said.
While Niskayuna struggled late, top-seeded Shenendehowa found a way to do both during its closing 20-1 run and earned a title-game spot Friday at home against No. 3 seed Troy (11-3).
“I’m happy for these guys,” Dzikas said. “Now we get to play Friday and end the season playing a meaningful game.”
Mason Courtney scored 12 of his 14 points and grabbed seven of his 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter for Shenendehowa, and Carter Seeberger and Luke Lavery turned perfect passes into wide open 3-point baskets that all but clinched the win.
“They made some big shots,” Grasso said.
Lavery scored seven of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, and Seeberger closed with 10 points in Shenendehowa’s second win over No. 4 seed Niskayuna (10-5) in six days.
“Devin [Dzikas] is averaging 20 points a game, and [Andrew] Martin got 19 the last time we played them. He [Grasso] wasn’t going to let those guys beat his team,” Tony Dzikas said. “Other guys had to step up.”
Devin Dzikas broke the 33-33 tie with a pair from the line with 4:32 left, and the senior’s steal led to two more foul shots by Lavery. Shenendehowa extended its advantage on layups by Courtney and Lavery.
After Darian Parker hit a foul shot for Niskayuna, Seeberger and Lavery nailed their 3-point baskets. Courtney added Shenendehowa’s final six points.
“We got down and tried to force the action,” Grasso said. “They picked us apart.”
Though he was one of the offensive stars, Courtney was eager to talk about the dirty work that helped Shenendehowa win, like his rebounding and the defensive effort that allowed 10 second-half points.
“They run a flex offense and in the beginning we played man. We tried to get into them and play more physical than we did in the first game [a 55-43 win],” Courtney said. “Later on, we went to our [3-2] zone and they had a tough time against that.”
Coach Dzikas thought his team’s active defense, which included some full-court pressure, took a toll on Niskayuna.
“I think they got tired,” he said. “At the end, we took their legs away.”
Niskayuna had its greatest offensive success in the second quarter when a 14-0 run gave the Silver Warriors a 21-9 lead.
“Coach always says a game is never won in the first half,” Courtney said. “We knew the shots were going to start falling.”
Shenendehowa closed the second quarter with an 8-3 spurt, and outscored Niskayuna 12-2 in the third to go up 29-26.
“I didn’t yell at halftime,” Tony Dzikas said. “I liked the tempo. We had to make shots.”
Kenyon Coleman had 14 points and six rebounds for Niskayuna, and Parker had nine points and seven rebounds. Owen Evans sank two foul shots with 5:08 to play to tie the game at 33.
Niskayuna had rallied from a 15-point deficit to beat CBA 47-45 in the quarterfinals.
“I am beyond proud of this group,” Grasso said. “To fight and compete the way they did, it says a lot about these young men.”
Troy beat Saratoga Springs (No. 2, 11-2) in the other semifinal 75-64.
Niskayuna 7 17 2 8 — 34
Shenendehowa 9 8 12 24 — 53
Niskayuna scoring: Coleman 4-5-14, Allen 1-0-2, Eldaye 1-1-4, Evens 1-2-5, Parker 4-1-9. Shenendehowa scoring: Seeberger 4-0-10, Martin 1-0-2, Spiak 0-1-1, McLea 2-0-4, Courtney 5-4-14, Dzikas 2-3-7, Lavery 4-4-15. Scoring totals: Niskayuna 11-9-34, Shenendehowa 18-12-53.