Bethlehem basketball coach A.G. Irons cringed a little bit each time Andrew Holmes stepped to the free-throw line.
“The kid lives down the street from us. The kid is in the driveway shooting constantly,” Irons said of the junior guard from Shaker. “You just had a feeling he was going to make them.”
Holmes sank five foul shots late in the fourth quarter, and David Morrison scored on a putback with 16 seconds left to lift the Blue Bison over the Eagles, 57-53, in a Suburban Council game pitting division leaders Friday night.
Holmes scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half, and Morrison and Chris Landers both finished with 15 as Shaker (9-2, 11-2) bounced back from last Friday’s 58-49 loss to Colonie, and ended a four-game winning streak by Bethlehem (9-2, 11-2).
“We really needed this after that loss to Colonie,” said Holmes. “We worked so hard this week to get this one.”
“We knew we didn’t play our best last week,” said Morrison, Shaker’s husky 6-foot-4 senior center. “We came in hungry after a pretty tough loss to Colonie. We went on that run in the third quarter, and that sparked our enthusism.”
Shaker clawed back in the game with a 12-0 third-quarter spurt in which Holmes netted five points, and won it despite making only one field goal in the final frame. That was from Morrison, who snared his sixth rebound after Zach Yakel’s drive and miss, and delivered down low in heavy traffic to make it 56-53.
“The lane was open. I knew I had help, but I didn’t think he’d get there so quick,” Yakel said of Morrison’s clutch putback. “He saved the day.”
“Morrison is a big kid, and he plays with a lot of intensity,” said Irons.
Bethlehem led by as many as eight points in both the first and second quarters, and was up by seven in the third, 40-33, after Nathan Kane drilled back-to-back three-point baskets for the state’s
16th-ranked Class AA team. Shaker followed with its 12-0 run.
“That run was big, but the biggest part of the game was the way our defense pulled together in the fourth quarter,” said Shaker coach Jeff Holmes, Andrew’s dad. “We pulled our belt a little tighter and found a way to win. In the first half, we were a little slow in our rotations.”
Kane dropped in Bethlehem’s final points on a baseline jumper with 2:03 left, giving the Eagles a 53-52 edge just after Holmes made a pair from the line.
Kane scored 11 of his 21 points in the second half, including a banker three from the top of the circle that had given his team a 51-50 advantage.
“Kane is a very good player,” Jeff Holmes said of the senior. “We think he’s the best guard in the league. He proved himself.”
After a Shaker miss and a five-second call against Bethlehem, Andrew Holmes made two free throws with 71 seconds left to give the Eagles a 54-53 lead.
“I pictured myself in the gym alone,” said Holmes. “I trusted my mechanics and shot them.”
Bethlehem misfired three times on its next trip down, with Yakel getting a rebound after the last. After Morrison’s putback and a Bethlehem miss at the other end, Holmes hit one of two from the line with 3.3 seconds to go.
“He works at it a lot,” Jeff Holmes said of his son. “We’re happy to have him at the line.”
Shaker beat Niskayuna by two before the Colonie setback, and another loss would have left the Blue Bison in second place in the North Division behind Shenendehowa. Shenendehowa (8-2, 8-3) topped Averill Park Friday, 59-31.
“This was a great team win,” said Yakel, a senior guard. “We had great free throw shooting when we needed it. We played great defense when we needed it. Overall, we won together.”
Morrison scored down low to start Shaker’s third-quarter run, and Yakel scored on a putback before Holmes tied the game at 40-40 on a three-point hoop. The junior guard then gave Shaker its first lead on a drive with 2:37 left, and Malik Dare converted a three-point play as the Blue Bison went up, 45-40.
“The biggest part of that run was our defense,” said Morrison. “We made some adjustments at the half. Our defense stepped up, and the offense followed.”
Holmes scored nine of Shaker’s 21 third-quarter points, and with his 16 equaled his season high.
“I was struggling early,” said Holmes, when asked about his tying three-point basket. “I was relieved to make a shot.”
Landers scored 12 of his 15 points in the second quarter, and Morrison scored eight of his 15 in the first quarter. Landers went 9-for-10 from the line, with the senior’s two foul shots giving Shaker a 49-44 lead heading into the last quarter. Bethlehem’s Connor Morelli notched all of his 14 points in the first half, and combined with Kane for nine threes.
Bergere 3-2-8, Clas 1-0-2, Graves 2-0-4, Kane 8-0-21, Morelli 5-0-14, Sica 2-0-4. Totals: 21-2-53.
Dare 1-1-3, Holmes 5-5-16, Kaurejo 1-0-3, Landers 3-9-15, Morrison 6-3-15, Yakel 2-0-5. Totals: 18-18-57.
Bethlehem 18 14 12 9 — 53
Shaker 11 17 21 8 — 57
Three-point goals: Kane 5, Morelli 4, Holmes, Kaurejo, Yakel.