George Dudas knows his boys’ basketball team is going to play hard. Other than that, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake coach isn’t quite sure what level of play his Spartans will bring to the court in tonight’s Suburban Council matchup at Niskayuna.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake is the lone Section II team that has yet to play a game, having started its practice regimen late due to the high school’s long and successful football run into late November.
The Spartans had earlier scheduled games with Ballston Spa and Shenendehowa pushed back to later dates in the season.
“We don’t have everything in. Are we where we want to be? No,” Dudas said Thursday after his ninth full-team practice. “Eventually, we’re going to be fine. We’ve been through this before, but we’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
Burnt Hills’ 12-player roster consists of eight football players who competed for the state Class A championship on Nov. 28. That group includes Phil Neumann and Zach Morton, who will both miss tonight’s contest with football- related injuries, and Jacob Meyers, a 6-foot-5 senior who earned a starting role late last season.
Morton, another 6-5 senior, is the only full-time starter back from a BH-BL team that won nine games last winter.
“A lot of kids are just starting to get their basketball feet under them,” said Dudas. “I have no idea, as far as roles and chemistry. They’ll work themselves out as we go along.”
Niskayuna will be playing its fourth game tonight after beating Queensbury and Columbia at its tip-off tournament and losing to Shaker Tuesday in its league debut. Advantage Silver Warriors?
“It goes a little both ways,” said Niskayuna coach Mike Black.
“Being their first game, their kids are going to be really exited. They’re going to be fired up to play a league game. On the other hand, we’ve played a few games. We’ve had a chance to see our team and make a few adjustments. That’s somewhat of an advantage.”
Though Niskayuna is projected to be one of the better Suburban Council teams based on its size, experience and multiple scoring threats, Dudas insisted his Spartans will compete at an intense level in an effort to win.
“We’re going to try to win a basketball game,” he said. “Normally, after nine practices you’re getting ready for a scrimmage, but it is what it is. We have a game to play, and we’re going to give it everything we have.
“We’ve got to rebound and defend. Those things will keep us competitive, and we can’t get frustrated. There will be moments when things won’t be looking real good. We’ve got to work our way through it.”
Black said his group will have to work hard to notch its first league win after splitting with BH-BL last season.
“Burnt Hills is well-coached and they’re going to run some nice sets,” he said. “Even though they’ve only been together for a short period of time, George will have those kids ready to play. We’re going to have our hands full.”
Dudas scouted Niskayuna’s 52-47 victory over Columbia Saturday, when Aaron Wyngowski scored a career-high 17 points to lift the Silver Warriors to the tip-off tournament championship. Kyle Bayly, Guy Waltman and Matt Royce generated 23, 17 and 12 points, respectively, the night before in a 62-53 triumph over Queensbury.
“They’re going to be one of the tougher teams in the league. They shoot well. They’re athletic kids. They’ve got size off the bench,” Dudas said. “When I saw them play Columbia, the kids that got them going, the kids that sparked them, came off the bench.”
Niskayuna’s second group includes 6-5 John Fragnoli and 6-4 Peyton Houghtaling. Royce, the team’s starting center, is 6-4.
“As a staff, we really like this team,” said Black. “We have skilled size for the first time in a while. We have several options we can go to on offense. We have some pluses. I’m pleased with where we are right now. We’re not where we want to be, but I think we have a chance to do some good things.”
Niskayuna will be looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s 45-53 loss to Shaker, when a sluggish first half proved costly.
“Our shot selection has got to improve. We’ve got to work for a good shot and trust the guy to put it in the basket,” Black said. “That’s one thing. The second is at the defensive end. We’ve got to continue to be more consistent. We’ll have a good couple of sequences and then drop off a little bit. We can’t afford to do that.”