Last season’s top two teams in the Suburban Council’s South Division played like there was a championship at stake Tuesday night.
Guilderland used the long ball to claw back from an early hole and then went back and forth with Bethlehem deep into the fourth quarter before the Eagles pulled out a 61-58 thriller on the Dutchmen’s court.
Matt McKenna scored the last of his game-high 17 points on a tie-breaking layup with 1:40 to go, and Bethlehem teammate Nate Kane sank two clutch free throws with 20 seconds left in the Eagles’ second straight division win on the road.
“I didn’t know how this was going to work out. I watched film of their last game, and they destroyed Averill Park in the second half,” Guilderland coach Ron Osinski said of the Eagles’ 70-58 win on Friday. “They’re a tough team. They have athletic kids. They can run and shoot. That’s a good team, and I’m proud of my team for battling like that.”
Guilderland pulled even at 55-55 on its 10th three-pointer by freshman Andrew Platek with 4:43 left, and nudged ahead one minute later on a successful drive by Vince Simeone. The Dutchmen managed just one free throw after that, though, and the Eagles countered with two tying free throws by Myles Bergere, McKenna’s basket and Kane’s two makes in the waning seconds.
“We refused to lose,” said Kane, a senior guard. “They’re a good team, but down the stretch, we didn’t let them score on us. Coach says defense is about desire.”
Guilderland failed to scored from the field on its final six possessions, its last bid ending with 6.7 seconds left after Brian Crupi was called for a travel. Kane was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one, a tie-up gave the ball to the Eagles, and an inbounds pass ended the contest.
Simeone missed on a drive before that sequence, and Connor Morelli snared the rebound, which led to Kane’s free throws that made it 61-58.
“We changed our defensive scheme a little bit,” said Bethlehem coach A.G. Irons. “I waited until the end, and I think it threw them off a little bit when they drove the lane.”
Bethlehem didn’t have as much success defending Guilderland’s outside shots. The Dutchmen were 7-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first half, making all seven in a 27-11 spurt that erased an 8-0 deficit.
Guilderland led at the half, 35-31, and Bethlehem had the advantage entering the final quarter, 50-46, with McKenna creating that margin on a last-second layup.
“We knew they had some guys who could shoot,” said Irons. “Not that many guys.”
Simeone nailed a trio of threes as part of his 14-point effort. Platek came off the bench to deliver 10 points, and Floyd and Marc DeMoulin both added eight. Guilderland (1-1, 2-2) played its fourth game without standout 6-foot-4 junior forward Matt Cerutti, who is still recovering from a pelvic injury.
“They’ve got five or six guys who can knock shots down,” said Kane. “When Cerutti gets back, they’ll be something. Every time I thought we were going to pull away, they’d hit a three.”
Bergere scored 12 points for the Eagles (2-0, 2-0), Morelli netted 11, and 6-7 sophomore John Sica totaled 10 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots.
After McKenna’s layup made it 59-57, Sica snared a rebound off a Guilderland miss, and Connor Burg stole the ball and was fouled. Burg made the front end of a one-and-one with 65 seconds left, Crupi got the rebound after the second shot, and missed on a layup attempt.
“I was hoping he’d [Crupi] swing the ball out,” said Osinski. “He’s a senior and he was trying to make a play. I can’t blame him for that.”
Misses at both ends led to Kane’s free throws, those coming in a one-and-one.
“I didn’t want to get caught up in the situation,” said Kane. “I was thinking, ‘Get in a rhythm. Follow through just like I’m still in practice.’ ”
Kane played a superb floor game, and finished with seven points, six assists, including the pass on McKenna’s tie-breaking bucket, five steals and five rebounds.
“This kid is a three-year starter. He was the only junior on the Suburban Council first team last year. He’s a player. He’s a gamer,” Irons said of Kane. “He’s a smart player and a very talented player, but he’s not trying to be the whole show.”
Sica 4-2-10, Bergere 4-4-12, Shade 1-0-2, Kane 2-2-7, Morelli 3-4-11, Clas 1-0-2, McKenna 7-1-17. Totals: 22-13-61.
Floyd 3-0-8, Crupi 1-0-2, V. Simeone 5-1-14, Wine 0-2-2, Burg 2-1-7, Buchanan 3-0-7, Platek 3-2-10, DeMoulin 4-0-8. Totals: 21-6-58.
Bethlehem 15 16 19 11 — 61
Guilderland 16 19 11 12 — 58
Three-point goals: Kane, Morelli, McKenna 2, Floyd 2, V. Simeone 3, Burg 2, Buchanan, Platek 2.