Things were going so well for the Schenectady basketball team before it saw an early lead evaporate in a loss to Troy and a late lead slip away in a loss to Christian Brothers Academy.
More setbacks followed after those back-to-back homecourt defeats, sending the Patriots into a tailspin that has coach Eric Loudis searching for answers.
“Teams around us are playing better right now. We should be getting better, and we’re not,” said Loudis, whose Patriots are 2-6 since opening with wins against Bishop Maginn, Catholic Central and Albany. “That’s frustrating, but I’m not giving up on them. I never will. They’re young.
“I’m just trying to get us in a good rhythm going into the sectionals. While the league race is important to us, that’s my biggest objective right now.”
Schenectady had it all working early in the season, starting with a 67-39 win against Bishop Maginn when the Patriots turned the ball over only 10 times, recorded 19 assists on 28 baskets and limited the Golden Griffins to 12 first-half points. Darius Macon excelled in that game with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks, and Cody Shafer had an impressive performance, too, with nine points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds and six steals.
Bishop Maginn raced to a 39-24 halftime advantage and thumped Schenectady last Friday in a rematch, 72-48. Shani Moses was the lone Patriot in double figures with 10 points.
“I told the guys in the preseason that the keys to our success will be limiting turnovers, making foul shots and playing hard on defense,” said Loudis. “We’ve gotten away from all those things, and that’s got to change. When you lose doing the right things, it’s a different story.”
Loudis is hoping a new chapter will begin when Schenectady (5-4, 5-6) hosts Catholic Central (5-5, 6-6) tonight and Albany (2-7, 3-8) one week from tonight in Big 10 games at the Pat Riley Sports Center. Road games will follow at Troy (9-1, 9-2) and CBA (9-1, 10-2), the league co-leaders.
“We’ve got seven games left. If we go out and stick to the game plan, do what we have to do and play hard, we can be in every game,” said Loudis. “They’ve got to come ready to play.”
Loudis is looking for the kind of defense that held both Catholic Central and Albany to 51 points, and also contained CBA in a 47-46 loss that came about due to a late turnover.
“It’s a desire thing. I’ve got to get them out of their funk,” said Loudis. “We’re not getting the 50-50 balls and getting the defensive rebounds like we were. In our first few games, our defense was leading to our offense.
“I’m looking for someone to give us some energy.”
Schenectady also needs guys to connect more efficiently from the line and the perimeter, and cut down on its turnovers, in order to reverse course during the season’s stretch run.
“When we’re playing well as a team, we’re limiting our mistakes. In our last five games, we’ve averaged 28 turnovers,” said Loudis. “We’re not making smart decisions right now. We’ve just got to slow it down and cut that number down. If we can get it down to that 13 or 14 range, that would be awesome.”
After beating Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, Schenectady lost to LaSalle, Newburgh Free Academy and Green Tech. The Patriots then topped Amsterdam, but bowed to Bishop Maginn when they committed 34 turnovers.
“I’m doing everything I can think of to help the boys out. In practice, we’ve gone back to the basics. We’re working on ball handling and shooting form. I’m trying to fix what’s not right,” Loudis said. “I’ve even gone with a different starting lineup the last five games, and I’m not usually a lineup changer.”
Catholic Central won at Amsterdam Tuesday, 78-68, behind Anthony Mack’s 23 points and Jiriem Tedders’ 22. Mack, a 6-foot-5 freshman, has scored in double figures in every game and leads the Big 10 in scoring.
“They’ve got some good things going on, and Mack has been playing very well for them,” said Loudis. “If we can get back to the game plan, it will make life a lot easier for us.”
Schenectady will be playing at home for the first time since its 66-58 Dec. 28 loss to Newburgh Free. Macon, a 6-6 senior, led the Pats that night with 22 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
“We want to get the excitement back in this gym,” said Loudis.