SARATOGA SPRINGS – Niskayuna is no stranger to close games this boys’ basketball season.
For a while, it looked like the undefeated Silver Warriors might not have one Tuesday, but Saratoga Springs had other plans. In the end, however, Niskayuna executed its offense and made shots when it had to in a 53-46 Suburban Council win.
Niskayuna (7-0 league, 7-0 overall) led by as many as 16, 37-21, in the third quarter. Eventually, Saratoga Springs (2-3 league, 3-5 overall) got within three at 49-46 with 1:32 remaining — but Owen Evans’ driving score with 59 seconds left sealed the Niskayuna win.
Both teams played a variety of defenses, but the attention-grabber was Niskayuna’s box-and-one on Saratoga Springs guard Dillon Waite. Saratoga Springs coach Matt Usher said Waite has seen “plenty of attention” from teams this season, but not yet a box-and-one.
“He has the ball in his hands [a lot] and he makes great decisions,” Niskayuna coach Mike Grasso said of Waite. “He makes everybody on the floor better, so we were trying to limit as many touches in good positions as much as possible. He made some great plays and other guys stepped up for them.”
Waite finished with eight points, including a 3-pointer during the Blue Streaks’ fourth-quarter rally, but when the box-and-one was bothersome, he delivered two assists in the rally.
“They did a nice job on him,” Usher said of Niskayuna’s plan for Waite, “and obviously we didn’t make some shots from guys that we know they’re capable of making. Sometimes it’s as simple as making shots.”
That was something the Silver Warriors did during an impressive run of their own in the second quarter. Ahead 17-15, Niskayuna closed out the half on an 11-3 run.
“That was very good,” Grasso said. “I thought Gavin [Olsen] and Kasper Matia gave us two huge sparks off the bench rebounding, running the floor, getting us going. It was really nice to see the young guys contribute.”
There was one problem, however: Niskayuna guard Sam Booth was in foul trouble. He got his fourth foul at 6:45 of the third and sat the rest of the quarter. He fouled out with 4:13 left, having scored 10 points.
Niskayuna had another mini-run in the third, helped by a defense that denied Saratoga Springs its first points until 3:46 remained on a Hutton Snyder 3-pointer.
Saratoga Springs, though, chipped away in the fourth quarter, as Usher’s constant substitutions, fresh legs and full-court pressure paid off.
“Trying to give guys a quick blow after three or four minutes, trying to keep their legs fresh,” Usher explained. “It’s a process of trying to figure out who’s going to be out there and who can do the things we want, and right now we’re still searching for that. But I’m proud of the guys’ effort all the way to the final buzzer.”
“After [the third quarter] we kind of bogged down on offense,” Grasso said. “Sam fouling out hurt us. He’s making a lot of decisions, but other guys have got to step up. We have four seniors and they’ve got to step up and make plays when it’s crunch time. Tonight we didn’t really do that, but in the end we hit just enough free throws to seal it.”
Evans led Niskayuna with a game-high 13 points. Jack Allen added 10 points, while Gabe Eldaye had seven points, five rebounds and three assists.
Evan Ash, Straughter and Snyder each scored nine for Saratoga Springs, with Straughter pulling down 10 rebounds.
Niskayuna 12 16 14 11 – 53
Saratoga 10 8 9 19 – 46
Niskayuna scoring: Booth 4-2-10, Allen 2-4-10, Thomas 0-2-2, Eldaye 2-2-7, Matia 2-0-4, Evans 5-0-13, Olsen 1-0-3, Parker 2-0-4. Saratoga Springs scoring: Snyder 3-1-9, Waite 3-1-8, Barile 1-0-2, Ash 4-0-9, Masten 1-1-3, Straughter 4-1-9, Evan 1-0-2, Farr 1-2-4. Scoring totals: Niskayuna 18-10-53, Saratoga Springs 18-6-46.