Of the five basketball teams in prime contention for the two Suburban Council division championships, Guilderland may be the biggest surprise of them all.
“You always hope you’re going to do something, but really, I didn’t know how we were going to fare,” Dutchmen coach Ron Osinski said. “We came in with such a different mix.”
Guilderland is the league’s only team that hasn’t lost since the new year, and at 6-2 shares second place with Columbia in the South Division. That’s a significant accomplishment, considering the Dutchmen lost scoring leader and Daily Gazette All-Area first-teamer Cameron Dobbs to graduation, and 6-foot-4 junior Matt Cerutti has yet to see a minute of playing time since sustaining an offseason injury to his midsection.
“We came into the year with [Brian] Crupi as our most experienced player, and Vin Simeone the next one. After that, there was no varsity experience,” said Osinski.
Guilderland has only four seniors including starters Connor Burg, Troy Buchanan and Crupi, who join with Simeone and fellow junior Marc DuMoulin. Freshman Andrew Platek is often among the first players off the bench, and sophomore Ralph Simeone has seen his share of action.
“I really like this team. If you had a team like this every year, you could coach forever,” Osinski said. “They’re so enthusiastic, and that keeps me enthusiastic. They listen, they want to learn and they play hard. The bonus is we’ve got a couple of wins. That’s been their reward.”
Guilderland’s signature win came right after the Christmas break, when it built a seven-point lead through three quarters and held off North Division-leading Shaker, 58-56. Guilderland defeated Niskayuna before that, and topped Ballston Spa and Averill Park afterward.
“They go out and they play hard. There’s no magic to it. They’re hard-working kids, each and every one of them,” said Osinski. “There’s no secret to what we’ve been doing. I attribute it to their hard work.”
Guilderland (7-3 overall) begins the second half of its league schedule tonight at home against Colonie (4-4, 5-5). The Garnet Raiders feature 6-3 standout forward Jake Samuels.
“I look at it as every night in our league it’s a 50-50 game,” Osinski said. “It’s a jump ball every time. I’ve told the kids we’re not a favorite in any game. If we don’t play ball, teams can roll over us.”
No team has done that yet. While Guilderland went .500 over its first six games, those setbacks came against Saratoga Springs in overtime (66-64) in the title game of the Blue Streaks’ season-opening tournament, Bethlehem (61-58) and Shenendehowa (64-60). Bethlehem leads the South Division and Shenendehowa sits behind Shaker in the North.
“Before the Christmas break, I thought we played pretty good, but it looked like we were getting a little tired,” said Osinski. “During the layoff, we went over some things, worked on getting our bench better at being effective, and got some rest.”
Fully charged, Guilderland dealt Shaker its only defeat. Guilderland displayed its two main traits in that contest by protecting the basket with a quick and active defense and sharing the ball at the other end. Vin Simeone led the way with 20 points, DuMoulin netted 11, and Burg added 10.
“Last year, we lived and died with Cameron. This group distributes the ball pretty well. The kid that’s open is going to get the ball,” said Osinski. “There are no egos. They know what they are, and know what they have to do.”
Five Dutchmen scored in double figures in a 73-61 win over Columbia, and in four other games, four players delivered 10 points or more. Vin Simeone was among four double-digit scorers with 24 Friday in a 77-61 triumph at Averill Park.
“Look at our scoring. Every kid but one has hit a three-pointer for us,” said Osinski. “We have kids coming off the bench who are capable of scoring. I have shooters.”
What Guilderland doesn’t have is great size. DuMoulin stands 6-4, and Alex Burns, at 6-2, is its next tallest player.
“Size has been an issue for us,” said Osinski. “That’s why we have to battle for 32 minutes.”
Berne-Knox-Westerlo senior guard Liz Harvey completed a scoring triple when she notched 31 points Friday to become the school’s all-time leader in that category.
Harvey’s 31 came in a 63-20 Western Athletic Conference win over Schoharie, and the performance gave her 1,526 career points. Harvey moved past 2004 Berne-Knox-Westerlo graduate Sarah Domermuth (1,525) with a third-quarter layup, and left the game soon after.
Harvey has broken the Berne-Knox-Westerlo single-season scoring record twice over, piling up 439 as a sophomore and 456 as a junior. She set a school single-game record as a freshman with a 33-point effort, topped that twice last season with 34 and has twice netted 35 this season.