Darius Macon scored a career-high 23 points as part of a double-double, and fellow varsity veteran Cody Shafer came within one point of a triple-double in leading Schenectady to a season-opening 67-39 Big 10 win over Bishop Maginn Friday night at the Pat Riley Sports Center.
“Coach brought our confidence up before the game,” said Macon, a 6-foot-6 senior. “In practices and in scrimmages, he does the same thing. He’s always telling us, ‘You can do it.’ ”
Schenectady did plenty in a first-half show of offensive execution and defensive prowess, and essentially decided the contest by roaring to a 38-12 lead behind Macon’s 19 points and five blocked shots.
Macon finished with six blocks and took down 11 rebounds, and Shafer had nine points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds and six steals as the Patriots avenged last season’s 62-49 opening loss to the Golden Griffins.
“Darius and Cody were both fantastic,” said Schenectady coach Eric Loudis. “They were like Batman and Robin tonight. They really complemented each other.”
Towan Hamlin delivered eight points, and Keishaun Wheelings and Johnson Gooden-Prunty both added six in their varsity debuts. Nine Patriots scored in all, and Schenectady put the clamps on Bishop Maginn with superb play in its active 3-2 zone.
“It’s the first game, and we can’t get too high, but we’re going to cherish this one,” said Shafer. “It’s definitely a better start than last year.”
Schenectady won only one of its first five games last season and finished with six victories in all. Friday night’s triumph included 19 assists on 28 baskets, and 10 turnovers.
“They don’t want a repeat performance from last year,” said Loudis, who has nine newcomers to go with Macon, Shafer and Randall Symes. “The guys have picked it up. They’ve worked hard, and this was a good one to get the momentum going our way.”
Macon has obviously come a long way from an offensive standpoint. He sank a late three-point basket to give Schenectady a 22-7 lead in the opening quarter, and proceeded to score the Pats’ first eight points in the second period on a short jumper and a trio of layups.
“It all comes from coach,” said Macon, who scored in double digits five times last season, with highs of 21 and 16 points. “He worked with me in the offseason. He told me to dig deep and work hard.”
Schenectady was never seriously threatened after Macon began the game with a layup and the first of his five jumpers, and Wheelings scored on a drive.
“I’ve been telling him [Macon] to stay balanced on his shot,” said Loudis. “He’s always had a good release, but he was off-balance. I’ve been telling him, ‘Set your feet.’ ”
“Obviously, he got better,” Bishop Maginn coach Rich Gilooly said of Macon. “Eric does a good job with his players.”
Macon’s night was through soon after he pounded down a slam dunk in the fourth quarter, and Shafer took the bench moments later after his three-pointer gave Schenectady a 57-28 advantage.
“He’s Joe Cool. He’s calm, cool and collected, and we need that,” Loudis said of Shafer, who saw limited action last season as a junior. “He’s not the flashiest guy, but sometimes, flashy guys don’t get the job done.”
Shafer collected seven first-half assists, and along with Macon, played a huge defensive role during the two-quarter stretch with five of the Pats’ eight steals. Bishop Maginn turned the ball over six other times in the first half, and compounded its woes by missing eight free throws.
“We can’t have empty possessions. That was the story of the first half,” said Gilooly. “In the third quarter, we started to do some good things, but you can’t go back and change the score.”
Bishop Maginn manged only three field goals in the first half, and only one of them came in the lane, when JaQuan Jones’ dropped in a layup for his team’s first points.
“We wanted to attack the open gaps and get it inside. With our turnovers, we didn’t have too many chances to do that,” said Gilooly. “In the second half we got into more of a flow.”
Jones paced the Golden Griffins with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Colon 1-0-3, Friend 1-1-4, Coleman 1-1-4, Thomas 2-0-4, Jones 3-4-10, Hannah 1-2-5, Nixon 3-3-9. Totals: 12-11-39.
Cyr 2-0-4, Garlic 1-0-2, Gooden-Prunty 3-0-6, Hamlin 2-4-8, Macon 11-0-23, Moses 2-1-5, Pauline 1-2-4, Shafer 4-0-9, Wheelings 2-2-6. Totals: 28-9-67.
Bishop Maginn 7 5 12 15 — 39
Schenectady 22 16 9 20 — 67
Three-point goals: Colon, Friend, Coleman, Hannah, Macon, Shafer.