Kevin Curtin thought Friday night’s Colonial Council matchup with Watervliet was going to turn out different than so many had before, and the Schalmont coach had a good reason to think that way.
His Sabres had won six of eight games, starting with a sweep of Mohonasen and Lansingburgh at the Kirvin Cup, and they were able to build a double-digit lead in an earlier game with the Cannoneers.
“We thought tonight was our chance to get the big win we’ve been looking for. Give credit to Watervliet,” Curtin said after a disappointing 58-43 homecourt setback. “Orlie [Watervliet coach DiBacco] pushed many good buttons, and his kids responded. We tried to match their moves.”
Watervliet never let Schalmont get into an offensive flow and used a 12-0, second-quarter spurt to gain the upper hand in the Liberty Division contest.
“Coach tells us to play each quarter like we’re starting over. Try to win each quarter,” said Watervliet senior forward Issiah Brace, who excelled with 17 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. “We tried to make this our court.”
The Cannoneers (8-3, 9-5) made it their game with a balanced offense that included seven three-point baskets in the first half, and a superb defensive effort. Danny Burns had three steals, Brace drew three charging fouls and three others blocked shots as part of that defensive showing.
“I was worried about this game. Schalmont is a very dangerous team. They gave Cohoes all they could handle,” said DiBacco. “They average seven threes a game and they do a good job in transition, and those were the two things we focused on. I’m very pleased with how we defended both.“
Schalmont tied the game at 2-2 and 4-4 before Taylor Dockstader’s three gave the Cannoneers the lead for good. The Cannoneers have now won 16 straight in what was once one of Section II greatest rivalries.
“We weathered a pretty good storm there. They came out hot, and we got back in it,” said Curtin. “All of a sudden, they’re on another run, and once that ball of momentum starts rolling, it’s tough to get it back on your side.”
Curtin was talking about the Cannoneers’ 12-0 run that came after Nick Bird’s two free throws got the Sabres within 25-20 midway through the second quarter.
“It was extra passes and guys knocking down shots,” DiBacco said of the key run. “Earlier in the year, we didn’t make that pass so quick.”
Five different Cannoneers connected during the 12-0 spree, starting with Quinn Capitula on a putback and A.J. Edge on a drive. Ty’Jon Gilmore and Brace later sandwiched threes around a layup by Burns.
“We’ve got a lot of guys capable of stepping up,” said DiBacco. “One guy doesn’t have to do it all.”
Trevon Perez-Tucker played a strong defensive game against Gilmore, a standout sophomore guard, who, along with Brace, started for last season’s state Class B championship team. Gilmore scored 13 points, and five after the intermission.
“Part of our plan was to get those other guys to make shots,” said Curtin. “They made shots.”
Dockstader scored eight points, while Capitula and Ryan Sandoval both added seven as part of the Cannoneers’ balanced offensive attack.
“We all know we’ve got to help Ty out as much as we can,” said Brace. “He’s a good player, and he gets a lot of attention.”
Zac O’Dell led Schalmont (5-5, 8-7) with 17 points, five rebounds and two blocks. The sophomore forward capped Schalmont’s longest run of the game, a six-pointer, with two foul shots that got the Sabres within 42-30 in the third quarter.
Putbacks by O’Dell got the Sabres within 11 twice in the final frame.
Perez-Tucker had seven rebounds, four assists and three steals to go with his steady one-on-one play against the explosive Gilmore.
Brace 6-3-17, Dockstader 2-3-8, Capitula 3-0-7, Burns 1-0-2, Sandoval 3-0-7, Gilmore 4-2-13, Edge 2-0-4. Totals: 21-8-58.
Curtin 2-0-5, Murphy 1-0-2, Perez-Tucker 1-0-2, Willis 2-0-5, Bird 2-2-7, Clifford 1-0-3, Frank 1-0-4, O’Dell 5-7-17. Totals: 15-9-43.
Watervliet 17 20 10 11 — 58
Schalmont 12 10 12 9 — 43
Three-point goals: Brace 2, Dockstader, Capitula, Sandoval, Gilmore 3, Curtin, Willis, Bird, Clifford.