Shenendehowa basketball coach Tony Dzikas was not all that surprised when his new-look team dropped its season opener to Ogdensburg Free Academy, and two games later, lost to Ballston Spa for the first time since the Scotties joined the Suburban Council.
“The problem with youth is inconsistency,” said Dzikas, who has eight underclassmen on his roster of 12. “A guy will play real well one day and not so well the next day. Another guy will do that, too, and as a team, you’ll see the same kind of thing. We’ve got to get better at putting four quarters together.
“As a coach, you can let it drive you nuts, but I’ve been doing this for a while, and I knew what to expect. I knew there would be nights I’d be left scratching my head, and other night where we’d play great.”
Dzikas is hoping for one of those exceptional outings tonight when the Plainsmen host unbeaten South Division leader Bethlehem. The Eagles (5-0, 7-0) vaulted into the state Class AA rankings at No. 21 with their back-to-back wins against Middletown and Christian Brothers Academy last week at the CBA holiday tournament.
“We’re more than capable of doing it, but win or lose, we want to take a step in the right direction,” said Dzikas.
Shenendehowa (3-1, 3-2) has made positive strides since that 66-61 loss to Ballston Spa. A 64-60 win against Guilderland followed, and the Plainsmen knocked off Colonie in their last outing, 53-50, when 6-foot-4 sophomore center Brandon Fischer scored a season-best 15 points, and senior forward Drew Zlogar added a career-high 12.
“We’re 3-1 in the league and coming off a nice win against Colonie.” said Dzikas. “I’m pleased with where we are, and we want to keep getting better. That’s the goal. I think we will as the guys get more experience.”
Aside from Zlogar, Shenendehowa only has three other players who saw significant minutes last season in senior guards Dylan Molloy and Teddy McCarthy and junior guard Jake Hicks. The new cast includes freshman guard Kevin Huerter, sophomore center Eric Kromer, sophomore forward Tom Huerter and junior center Brendan O’Brien.
Kevin Huerter scored nine points in the Colonie game and 12 against Guilderland, all of them coming on three-point baskets.
“We’ve got a couple of young kids who we think can be special players,” said Dzikas. “We’re talking about next level players.”
Shenendehowa will have to play at a high level tonight to hang with the Eagles and stay within striking distance of North Division leader Shaker (5-0, 7-0).
“One thing we have to do is compete. We have to fight. Get after loose balls. We also can’t give up second shots. We can’t let them get offensive rebound after offensive rebound,” said Dzikas. “And we need players to make plays. That’s what Bethlehem did in the CBA game. They finished at the rim. They made the and-ones.”
Senior guard Nate Kane was selected the CBA tournament most valuable player after totaling 13 points, six assists and five rebounds in a 66-55 win against the Brothers. John Sica, the Eagles’ standout 6-7 sophomore center, had 18 points against both CBA and Middletown in a 72-65 overtime victory.
“I watched them play CBA, and they were fantastic,” said Dzikas. “They have a lot of parts. I didn’t see a real weakness.”
Shenendehowa beat Bethlehem in overtime last season, 73-71. Jackson Shea forced overtime with a last-second three-point hoop, and Brandon Miller won the contest on a last-second putback.
“Bethlehem is coming off a great win at CBA. I don’t think there’s any way they come into our place and have a letdown,” said Dzikas. “They haven’t beaten us in some time, and I told my guys they’re going to be excited about playing us. They’re going to be intense, and we have to match that.”
Bethlehem last defeated Shenendehowa late in the 2001-02 season.
Shaker is the only other unbeaten Section II Class AA team, and the Blue Bison host Guilderland (3-2, 4-3) tonight. Shaker junior forward Malik Dare has scored in double figures in every game but one, and was selected the Suburban Council player of the week for games played Dec. 17-21 after collecting 15 points and seven rebounds against Averill Park and a season-high 22 points and eight boards against Mohonasen.
The Bethlehem girls remained undefeated (5-0, 7-0) after wins against Bishop Loughlin and Troy at the Troy holiday tournament, and host a Shenendehowa (3-1, 5-1) team that is also coming off a pair of non-league wins at the Amsterdam tourney, against Kingston and Corcoran.
The Schalmont girls (3-2, 5-2) have a big home test tonight against Colonial Council Patriot Division runner-up Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (4-1, 5-2).