After consecutive road losses to Christian Brothers Academy and Troy, Schenectady High School coach Eric Loudis was looking for the Patriots to close the Big 10 boys’ basketball season on the upswing.
The Patriots responded Tuesday with a 78-40 win over city rival Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons at the Pat Riley Sports Center, a victory that left Schenectady at 8-6 with two league games remaining.
“I’m looking at these last three games as trying to build some confidence,” said Loudis, whose team used its height advantage to full advantage against the Golden Knights. “If we can take these last three going into sectionals, that would be big for our confidence.”
After allowing Bishop Gibbons to cut an early 6-1 deficit to a one-point game, the Patriots took control on the defensive end and on the backboards.
“Coach told us we needed to run the offense more and play up on defense,” said 11th-grader Keishaun Wheelings, who had team highs of 20 points and eight rebounds. “Our defense was playing bad, and he told us we really needed to work on that. We came out and played good defense.”
“I wanted everyone more involved on both ends of the floor,” said Loudis. “We came out and played some man-to-man to get their energy up. We switched some things up, and they reacted well.”
Wheelings provided a lot of that energy, though he saw himself as having more of a soothing effect on his teammates.
“I tried to make things calmer,” said Wheelings, whose 10-point second period followed an eight-point first quarter by Darius Macon as the Patriots broke to a 41-22 lead at the half.
Wheelings was in the starting five, but Loudis pulled him early.
“I was trying to save him a little bit because he got a foul early,” said Loudis. “I put him right back in. I knew just from the way he was playing from the beginning that he had energy.
“Keishaun’s been doing some good things. I went over the shot chart, to see where he was making his shots, where he’s been most productive, where he’s missing, trying to get him areas to focus on. Tonight, he did a lot of good things.”
Loudis also rested Macon, who got 16 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots while playing about half the game.
“I normally don’t pull guys with two fouls, but we were up a little bit, and I didn’t want him to get his third foul before the half,” explained Loudis.
Macon scored six points in the third quarter, the final four on a pair of thunderous dunks off lobs from Clarence Stanford as the Patriots got their fast break going.
“Darius had some blocked shots, he threw some great outlet passes that got us out in transition, and he was rewarded on two of those with alley-oop plays,” Loudis said.
Schenectady’s 3-2 zone defense stifled the Golden Knights’ offense, denying them chances under the basket and forcing them into long-range shots. Added to that were numerous steals that led to easy fast-break points in the second half that helped Schenectady to a 63-28 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
“We had to change some things up,” Loudis said. “The past couple days of practice, I told them I wasn’t going to treat them like high school players. It was going to be more of a college atmosphere. If you don’t get it, you’re not going to play.
“We don’t have the abilty to take certain plays off, no disrespect to the players. I want every play to be run like its supposed to be run.”
Wheelings noticed the difference. “We tried some new things,” he said. “We played as a team. It was good.”
“We needed a victory,” said Loudis. “That’s all that matters.”
NOTRE DAME-BISHOP GIBBONS
Freeman 4-1-11, Maggs 5-0-10, Maloney 1-0-2. Sanders 1-1-3, Draper 5-0-11, Zarrandikoetxea 1-1-3. Totals: 17-3-40.
Macon 7-2-16, Cyr 2-0-4, Shafer 3-0-6, Wheelings 7-6-20, Symes 4-0-8, Moses 2-0-4, Garlic 3-0-6, Hamlin 1-2-4, Irving 1-0-2, Stanford 3-2-8. Totals: 33-12-78.
ND-BG 11 11 6 12 — 40
Schenectady 21 20 22 15 — 78
Three-point goals: Freeman 2, Draper.