COLONIE – The road to the Suburban Council boys’ basketball title will have to go through Niskayuna.
After Thursday’s defensive performance against CBA, the idea of anything going through Niskayuna – metaphorical or real – is hard to imagine. The Silver Warriors were outsized, but played aggressive man-to-man defense for the entire game in topping the Brothers, 55-45.
Niskayuna improved to 10-0 in the league and 10-1 overall, while CBA fell to 10-1 in the league and 11-2 overall.
It was a back-and-forth three quarters, as Niskayuna led 14-9 after the first, CBA led 25-21 at halftime and Niskayuna – on the strength of making five of its first six shots in the third quarter – led 37-36 after three.
In addition to its defense, Niskayuna shot the ball well, going 19 of 35 (54 percent) from the field.
“I think we were locked in defensively,” Niskayuna coach Mike Grasso said. “To hold them to 25 points in [the first] half – we had a rough four-minute-and-36-second stretch to end the second quarter. But I’m just so proud of my guys. We got back to our ball movement, back to sharing the ball and we made shots.”
Owen Evans drained one of his six 3-pointers to make it a 34-28 Niskayuna lead. The Silver Warriors stretched that to 37-31 on Sam Booth’s three-point play with 2:51 left in the third, but a 3-pointer by Jahmir Pitcher closed CBA to within one, 37-36.
“My teammates got me open shots, pretty much the whole game. I was feeling it tonight,” said Evans, who led all scorers with 18 points.
In the fourth quarter, one of Niskayuna’s daggers was a turnaround by Gabe Eldaye (nine points, six rebounds) in the lane near the end of the shot clock to make it 46-41. Evans followed with another 3 to make it a 49-41 lead with 3:52 left.
The constant was Niskayuna’s defense. Evans said CBA was the biggest and most physical team it had played.
“I mean, they’ve got some unbelievable big guys on that team, and it was a challenge for us to go up against those guys,” Evans said. “We did a great job. Gabe and Darian [Parker] locked down, and Sam Booth did a great job.”
The 6-foot Booth spent a lot of time face-guarding 6-9 Ayden Harrison of CBA and not allowing the big man anything to come easily.
Evans said the team’s defensive communication made a difference.
“It’s really loud in here, a lot of people, you can’t always hear the coaches’ direction, so we have to take it amongst ourselves to talk to each other,” he said.
Grasso said his team was equally as physical as CBA.
“They may have had the size, but you look at Gabe and Darian, there aren’t two more physical kids in this section than those two,” Grasso said. “I’m proud as heck of them for how they battled. I don’t think they came off the floor, either of them, and they showed that it’s been three years, and they’re starting to get the due they deserve for what they’re doing on the defensive side. And also offensively, they created a lot of things for us tonight.”
Booth added 11 points for Niskayuna, while Jack Allen also had nine points.
David Clement led CBA with 15 points and seven rebounds. Harrison added 12 points, while Matthew Sgambati scored nine.
“It’s a great road victory,” Grasso said. “The standings are what they are. We just want to keep playing and get better. Tonight we executed down the stretch.”
Niskayuna 14 7 16 18 – 55
CBA 9 16 11 9 – 45
Niskayuna scoring: Booth 2-6-11, Allen 4-0-9, Eldaye 4-1-9, Evans 6-0-18, Olsen 1-0-2, Parker 2-2-6. CBA scoring: Leak 1-0-2, Buddington 1-0-2, Harrison 5-1-12, Pitcher 1-0-3, Sgambati 3-0-9, Odutayo 1-0-2, Clement 5-5-15. Niskayuna totals: 19-9-55. CBA totals: 17-6-45.