SCHENECTADY — In a way, new Schenectady looked like old Schenectady in its season-opening boys’ basketball game against Mohonasen Saturday night.
The Patriots were effective with the new-look 3-2 defense they sprung on the Mighty Warriors, and Damari Holder and Nino Robinson combined for 45 points to anchor the offense in a 76-43 win at the Pat Riley Sports Center.
“We prepared for pressure man. That’s what they showed in the summer. We weren’t expecting that” Mohonasen coach Graham Macbeth said of Schenectady’s usage of the 3-2 defensive set. “They played a disciplined 3-2, and we couldn’t get anything.”
Schenectady had employed the 3-2 several years back when Eric Loudis was its varsity head coach, and current head coach John Miller was working with the junior varsity. Loudis’ father, the late Joe Loudis, was also a proponent of the 3-2 in his many years at Mechanicville and Cohoes.
“It’s a defense I am comfortable with, and at the same time, it’s a defense that causes a lot of turnovers,” Miller said after his team limited Mohonasen to 16 points in the middle quarters. “We’ll do some different things, but the majority is going to be that.”
Schenectady collected 12 steals, and two quick ones by Robinson and Jakeim Edge led to layups by the tandem to begin the third quarter. A slam dunk by Holder soon after gave the Patriots a 44-22 lead and complete control of the game.
“The message at halftime was win the third quarter. Don’t take your foot off the gas,” Miller said. “Have a little dog in you and finish it off. This is your time to make a statement.”
Macbeth and his young cast that includes five seniors heard it loud and clear.
“Their team length and team aggression bothered us,” Macbeth said. “When we tried to attack the gaps, everywhere we were, they were.”
Robinson had four steals to go with his 20 points, and Edge took the multiple talents he showed on the football field to the hardcourt and had three steals, one of Schenectady’s four blocks, and took a charge to go with his 10 points.
“Our energy was up and we played like a team,” said Robinson, a senior. “Everybody was talking and helping each other out.”
Miller liked a lot of things he saw as the contest progressed, and as his cast extended its advantage.
“Team ball is one of the main things this group showed me,” Miller said. “Heads were up. I could see they wanted each other to do well and the energy on the bench was good. There was a good vibe out there.”
Holder scored a team-leading 25 points and also picked up a team-high nine rebounds and two of those steals.
“In the first quarter he wasn’t really there,” Robinson said of Holder, a junior. “He hit a layup and I said, ‘Stay hot. We need you.’ ”
Holder scored eight points in the third quarter when Schenectady’s lead grew from 38-22 to 56-32. Edge capped the quarter with a buzzer-beating layup.
“They are going to be a good Suburban Council team,” Macbeth said of the Patriots. “They have size like they haven’t had in a while, and they’ve got a shooter in number one [Holder].”
Kyle Cornell and Jacob Paolino sank back-to-back 3-pointers to give Mohonasen a 6-2 lead before Schenectady went on an 11-0 run that Kenyatu Graham started with a layup and a putback basket and included a 3 by Holder.
Schenectady put together a 7-0 spurt to close the half, with Robinson’s short jumper just before the buzzer completing it after Edge made a layup and Miguel Flores dropped in a 3-pointer.
“We moved the ball a lot and took open shots,” Holder said. “We ran our plays right.”
Miller said his team that has only four seniors played the game the right way in terms of getting after it for four quarters.
“We talked with this group and told them, ‘You’re going to play the way you practice.’ In our practices they ask questions. The hustle and go hard. It’s been good,” Miller said. “They came out and played the way they practice, and I am proud of the effort. They deserved it.”
Cornell scored 13 of his 19 points in the first half, and no other Mohonasen player had more than six. Andrew Farnsworth pulled down nine rebounds.
“Our JV went undefeated last year,” Macbeth said. “They got a taste of varsity.”
Mohonasen 16 6 10 11 — 43
Schenectady 25 13 18 20 — 76
Mohonasen scoring: Oleksiak 1-0-2, Neale 0-1-1, Paolino 2-0-6, Farnsworth 1-1-3, Cornell 5-5-19, McNeill 1-0-2, Brown 1-0-2, Verra 1-0-2, Batcher 2-2-6. Totals: 14-9-43. Schenectady scoring: Holder 9-4-25, Robinson 8-4-20, Flores 2-0-5, Edge 5-0-10, Ketter 2-0-4, Graham 4-0-8, Gaines 2-0-4. Totals: 32-8-76.