Take a charge, and earn some pizza.
Andrew Haluska brokered that deal as incentive before Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake’s basketball game at Bethlehem Tuesday night. Maybe the Spartans’ first-year coach should have offered up the slabs sooner.
“Dan Symer took a charge early in the game. It got everyone fired up and we kind of rode it,” said Haluska. “Tyler Dowdle took another charge later in the game. Those guys cost me, but it was worth it.”
In between those defensive plays, the Spartans did a lot of things they hadn’t before in the kind of performance not even Haluska could have seen coming.
After losing to Mohonasen by 29 points last Friday, the Spartans ended their season-long losing streak at 12 games with an 80-68 Suburban Council victory.
“I was very excited for them. At the end of the game in the lockerroom, it was like they won the Super Bowl,” said Haluska, whose team led by as many as 22 points. “I told them to remember the taste and want more. I hope they’re not satisfied. I don’t think they are.”
Burnt Hills put up 24 points in the first quarter, surged way ahead with a 23-10 second-quarter spurt, and hit eight of its last 12 free throws to secure. In the Mohonasen game, Burnt Hills managed two points in both the first and third quarters.
“We completely laid an egg,” said Haluska. “I told them afterward that you’re going to have those days in your life where nothing goes right. You get down or you deal with it head-on. My guys decided to deal with it head-on and learn from it.”
Senior Austin Nydegger matched his career-high with 32 points, bouncing back after netting six against Mohonasen.
“Austin played tremendous. He got off to a great start and set the tone,” said Haluska. “The guys did a great job on the boards. The guys played their hearts out on defense. They did so many good things.”
Sophomore John Clayton delivered a season-high 15 points and snared 10 rebounds.
“John showed what he’s going to be,” said Haluska.
Dowdle also had his best scoring game with 15, and Symer, another 11th-grader, also reached a season high with eight. Haluska noted that sophomore Ben Keppler, a recent junior varsity call-up, provided great energy off the bench.
“Really, it was a team effort. Austin led the way, but the supporting cast stole the show. They haven’t done that all year long,” said Haluska. “We haven’t gotten the complementary stuff. It came from a number of guys and it came in a number of ways.”
Bethlehem had defeated Shaker, 66-49, for its most impressive win of the season on the same night Burnt Hills bowed to Mohonasen, 50-21. Bethlehem also won Saturday, rallying late to overhaul Niskayuna, 61-60.
“Bethlehem has size, and my kids battled. My kids made plays. It was great for these kids. The win gave us energy. The community is excited about it,” said Haluska. “For me, when I talk about working hard and the rewards that come with it, I have something to point to now.”
Despite its efforts, Burnt Hills had dropped each of its previous Suburban Council games by at least 10 points, including a 52-42 setback against Niskayuna and a 71-60 loss to Averill Park. The Spartans fell to Saugerties, 80-73, at their holiday tournament.
“We’ve kept it light and kept it positive. We’ve gotten better, and we’ve continued to work hard and compete,” said Haluska, who played his high school ball at Ichabod Crane and had earlier coaching stints at Catholic Central and The College of Saint Rose. “Our guys haven’t given up. That’s for sure.”
Burnt Hills travels to Shaker tonight in a rematch from the season opener. The Blue Bison won that contest, 69-48.
“Looking forward to it,” Haluska said. “Looking forward to seeing my team compete. They feel they can go there and play with those guys.”