You’ve got to keep the faith and make plays to pull off a comeback win like Niskayuna did Thursday night.
“We believed,” senior guard Aaron Gordon said after playing a lead role in the Silver Warriors’ 57-50 Suburban Council victory over visiting Mohonasen. “We needed one stop at a time, and we needed to make shots. We knew we could do it, and once we had the lead, we didn’t look back.”
Niskayuna went on a 22-6 fourth-quarter charge to beat Mohonasen in another tight game between the teams, and the end result was the first win for new varsity coach Bryan Mattice. The Mighty Warriors were in search of their first win of the season, as well.
“I’m happy, and even more so, I’m happy for the guys. It’s great for them. They deserve it,” Mattice said soon after Mike Sise’s free throw with 13 seconds left created the final margin. “Since the first day I walked in, they’ve applied themselves. They’ve done everything we’ve asked. It’s more about them.”
Gordon scored 13 of his season-high 24 points in the final quarter, including eight in a row when Niskayuna delivered the knockout blow.
“It was for the team,” said Gordon, a senior guard. “It was for the guys, and it was for coach. It’s been a long time coming.”
Niskayuna (1-3, 1-3) dropped close decisions to Saratoga Springs and Ballston Spa before beating Mohonasen (0-4, 0-4) for the fourth time in five games. Aidan Byrne, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, contributed a season-high 15 points, six rebounds and three assists, with his last feed setting up Gordon for a late three that made it 56-50.
“Before the second half, we talked about three things — effort, execution and support,” said Mattice. “The effort was there from the get-go. The execution took us a while, but we got it together. And you could see the support, the trust. Guys were finding open guys, and the kids on the bench were excited for the guys on the floor.”
Gordon was 6-for-11 from three-point range. The senior’s three gave Niskayuna a 51-50 lead with 2:37 left, and he dropped in a layup soon after taking down a defensive rebound at the other end.
Gordon came up with a steal and Sise drew a change to end Mohonasen’s next two trips, and Gordon’s three-pointer with 33 seconds to go made it 56-50.
“He [Gordon] is a three-year varsity kid,” Mattice said. “He’s been in scenarios before where he’s been asked to perform in a tight spot. He stepped up. A lot of guys stepped up.”
Chris Richardson had scored on a putback to give Mohonasen a 46-35 lead early in the fourth quarter. Gordon started Niskayuna’s push with a three, Anthony Fragnoli followed with a layup and Gordon turned a steal into another layup. Fragnoli later dropped in a hook shot and Byrne added two free throws and a layup as Niskayuna’s rally continued.
“We didn’t rebound. We didn’t rebound on free throws,” said Mohonasen coach Ken Dagostino. “We had mental mistakes. We had turnovers, some of them unforced, and we’re 0-4. We can’t close it out yet.”
Mohonasen also lost to Averill Park and Columbia in games decided in the fourth quarter.
“We held them to 21 in the first half. They got 22 in the fourth quarter,” said Dagostino. “We did not play a good second half.”
Mohonasen went on a 14-0 run spanning the first and second quarters to go up, 25-15, and led by as many as 11 two times in third frame, with threes by Donye Walker making it 32-21 and 44-33.
Walker hit five threes and finished with 17 points, Jeff Wicks netted 13 points and Richardson and Justin Kretzler both had nine. Wicks had eight points in Mohonasen’s 14-0 run.
Thursday’s game was the sixth in a row between the teams decided by fewer than eight points. Niskayuna prevailed in last season’s contest, 55-51, and Mohonasen won the season before, 53-50.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys trying to figure out how to win. They figured it out,” said Mattice, who played his high school ball at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons. “It’s nice for the guys to get a special win at home, in front of a good crowd.”
“Niskayuna played hard and did a great job after they got down,” said Dagostino.
Kretzler 4-1-9, Fusco 1-0-2, Richardson 4-1-9, Wicks 5-0-13, Walker 6-0-17. Totals: 20-2-50.
Gordon 9-0-24, Sise 0-2-2, Dame 2-1-5, Fragnoli 4-0-8, Flores 0-3-3, Byrne 5-5-15. Totals: 20-11-57.
Mohonasen 16 11 17 6 — 50
Niskayuna 15 6 14 22 — 57