SARATOGA SPRINGS — Big scoring runs have been a big part of Ballston Spa’s outstanding regular season, and the Scotties finished it off, as well as Saratoga Springs, with one of their best Friday night.
Trailing by double digits in the third quarter and by seven early in the fourth, the Scotties put together a 24-3 spree and overhauled the Blue Streaks 71-57 in a Suburban Council game played before a large and loud crowd.
“That’s the greatest environment I’ve played in,” Ballston Spa senior Nick Verdile said after delivering the knockout blow in a rally that left his team 13-1 in the league and 18-1 overall. “They’re right down the street. It was hard to communicate.”
The Scotties heard each other enough down the stretch, though, and beat the Blue Streaks with defensive stops, rebounds, passes and hoops after Andrew Stallmer had given the hosts 54-47 advantage in the last quarter.
Verdile scored 11 of Ballston Spa’s 24 points in the run, all in succession, when its lead grew from 56-55 to 67-55. Those 11 points included a 3-point play and a pair of 3-point baskets.
“We knew they could score quick and score in bunches,” Saratoga coach Matt Usher said. “We held their runs off until the last couple of minutes.”
Verdile finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and three steals. He notched 16 first-half points, including eight in a 12-6 push that ended the second quarter and got the Scotties within 34-32.
“The kid is a really good player,” Usher said of Verdile. “He hit big shots for them.”
Mike Miller netted 18 points for the Scotties, Ben Phillips had 13 points, seven boards and five blocked shots, and Nico Savini added seven points off the bench for the state sportswriters’ association’s No. 16-ranked Class AA team, which ended its regular season with back-to-back fourth-quarter comebacks and six straight victories.
Miller scored six points in the game-closing run and Phillips scored five points, with the senior’s layup pushing his team ahead for good at 56-54 inside the final three minutes. Phillips also had a key offensive rebound and a blocked shot when Ballston Spa began its deciding run with nine unanswered points.
“Early in the fourth each person was trying to get theirs. Trying to get it back by themselves,” Verdile said. “During a timeout we talked about sticking to the game plan, and we started sharing the ball and finding open shots.”
Stallmer was Saratoga’s standout with 24 points and six rebounds. The junior scored the final eight points, all on inside baskets, when Saratoga opened the third quarter with a 10-0 run to go up 44-32 for its largest lead.
In the second quarter, Stallmer had accounted for six points in a 12-0 run that had the Blue Streaks on top 28-20.
“He had a game,” Verdile said of Stallmer. “He gave us trouble all night inside.”
Ballston Spa outscored Saratoga 11-5 to end the third quarter to get within 49-43. A 3-point play by Stallmer to start the last quarter and his layup soon after had his team leading 54-47.
“He played really aggressive in the second half when we needed baskets,” Usher said of Stallmer. “He’s done a great job around the rim all season for us.”
Ryan Farr had 11 points and four assists for Saratoga Springs (10-4, 13-5), and Andrew Masten and Bryan Savage both contributed seven points. The Blue Streaks had won four in a row and six of seven games before Friday’s matchup.
“You have to play 32 minutes of smart basketball against that kind of team,” Usher said.
Verdile went 11 for 13 from the line, which included two free throws to start and finish Ballston Spa’s 11-5 push in the third frame. Miller hit a 3 in that run and nailed another 3 for the game’s final points, and totaled 11 of his 18 points in the second half.
“In the second half we gave up some baskets in transition and a few too many offensive rebounds,” Usher said.
Ballston Spa 18 14 11 28 — 71
Saratoga Springs 14 20 15 8 — 57
Ballston Spa scoring: Phillips 5-2-13, Zoller 1-0-2, Miller 7-1-18, Savini 3-0-7, Verdile 8-11-31. Saratoga Springs scoring: Farr 4-1-11, Masten 2-2-7, Savage 3-1-7, Snyder 4-0-8, Stallmer 11-2-24. Team totals: Ballston Spa 24-14-71; Saratoga Springs 24-6-57.