Andrew Haluska couldn’t say enough about his team’s effort, but conceded that the execution part still needs plenty of work.
“What I was looking for, I got. Thirteen kids hustling their butts off,” Haluska said after his coaching debut with the Spartans ended in a 69-48 loss to Shaker Friday night. “When you face a team of mine, it’s effort. In your shorts, dive on the floor. You’ll know you played us.”
The Spartans did go all out, yet a big first quarter highlighted by superb inside-outside play enabled the Blue Bison to open up a healthy lead that they never let go of.
“They’ll win games because they’ll outhustle people,” Shaker coach Jeff Holmes said after his team opened defense of its Suburban Council North Division title. “When you’ve got guys who hustle and a guy like [Austin] Nydegger, who can hit for 40, you can win games.”
Nydegger and fellow senior David Wellington are the only Spartans who saw a significant amount of playing time last season on a 7-12 squad. Nydegger paced Burnt Hills with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Haluska, who had previous coaching stints as a graduate assistant at The College of Saint Rose and with the Catholic Central junior varsity. “We’re going to continue to get better. We’re going to run our sets better. We’re going to guard better.”
Burnt Hills got better as the contest progressed. Nydegger heated up after a rough opening stretch, and the Spartans used their pressure defense to cause several turnovers after the Blue Bison protected the ball well early on.
“We’ve got seven or eight brand new guys. We got off to a slow start, but take away the first quarter, and we lose by seven,” said Nydegger. “We improved in the course of the game, and that’s something we can build on. Something we can work on as we move forward.”
Burnt Hills had a tough time staying with Shaker in the first quarter when the visitors raced to a 22-8 lead behind Malik Dare’s eight points, all of them coming on layups. The Blue Bison complemented their 6-foot-6 center with four three-point baskets, two off the hand of Andrew Holmes.
“We doubled down, and they found guys,” said Haluska. “They created space and we didn’t get out on them. We need to lock onto shooters a little better.”
“Coach told the team to run the floor hard and look inside,” said Dare, one of Shaker’s seven seniors. “He told us if we do that, good things will happen.”
Dare scored twice down low, and Will Francis and Holmes sank threes in a 10-0 run that put Shaker on top, 13-3. The Blue Bison closed the opening quarter with a 7-0 spurt that included a layup by Dare, a three by Holmes and a layup by Francis.
“Sometimes, we tried to hit the home run too quick, but early on, we had a good flow and got good shots,” said Jeff Holmes. “We have a good skill level and we took advantage of it.”
Dare finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and two blocks. He scored seven points in a 9-3 run to close the third quarter as Shaker’s advantage went to 54-33.
“We had them scouted,” said Haluska. “We knew he [Dare] was going to go left, and he went left and finished.”
Dare played an unselfish game, several times dishing the ball out after receiving it down low.
“I’ve known Malik for years. Like any big guy he’ll look to shoot first, but one thing he does well is look to pass if it’s not there,” said Nydegger. “He’s the reason they have such a good inside-outside game.”
The Blue Bison connected on seven three-point baskets in the first half. While they only made two of them in the second half, they were timely, coming from Holmes and Seamus McHugh after Nydegger opened the third period with a layup and then a steal and dunk that made it 37-24.
“It’s great because if teams double down on me I’ve got some great shooters,” said Dare.
Holmes scored 13 points, McHugh scored 11, and Francis totaled 10 points and five assists in Shaker’s 10th consecutive win over Burnt Hills.
Brehm 0-1-1, Campbell 1-2-4, Dare 7-4-18, Francis 3-2-10, Holmes 4-1-13, Kremer 0-2-2, Lewis 2-1-5, Mahoney 2-1-5, McHugh 4-0-11. Totals: 23-14-69.
BURNT HILLS-BALLSTON LAKE
Carroll 0-2-2, Clayton 1-0-2, Haughey 2-0-4, Jablonowski 2-1-6, Maggs 1-0-2, Nieters 2-0-5, Nydegger 9-1-20, Symer 1-1-3, Wellington 2-0-4. Totals: 20-5-48.
Shaker 22 15 17 15 — 69
BH-BL 8 12 13 15 — 48
Three-point goals: Francis 2, Holmes 4, McHugh 3, Jablonowski, Nieters, Nydegger.