Every time the Schenectady basketball team got kicked in the pants during the regular season, it responded with a fiery performance, and a win.
“They don’t like to lose. When they do, it’s like a reality check,” said Patriots coach Eric Loudis. “They come back more focused and more determined.”
That scenario played out six times, and not only did the Patriots bounce back to win each time, they prevailed by double digits. They’ll attempt to keep that string going tonight at the Pat Riley Sports Center against Saratoga Springs in what appears to be the most evenly matched of the Section II tournament’s Class AA opening-round games.
“You go through highs and lows. It’s a long season,” said Loudis. “I think our guys have done a good job of persevering.”
Keishaun Wheelings’ career night with 22 points and 21 rebounds went for naught when Schenectady was upset on its home court by LaSalle to close out the regular season, 61-53, in overtime. The Patriots missed a bunch of open shots from close range and failed to defend the perimeter at crucial times in a Feb. 7 setback that erased some of the momentum they built with a two-game winning streak.
“It goes to show that if you don’t perform, you get beat. Case in point is Arizona and Arizona State the other night. It happens,” said Schenectady’s fourth-year coach. “I’ve stressed to the guys that any night you can go down, and this isn’t the time for that.”
Schenectady (Big 10 No. 4, 11-7) has shown to be both vulnerable at times and exceptional at others. In the two games it lost to Troy and Catholic Central, and in its setbacks against Scotia-Glenville and LaSalle, the Patriots were in a position to win, but faltered.
“We had one legitimate loss, to CBA in our first game. In the other six games, we were right there. We had opportunities to win those games,” said Loudis. “Those games were eye-openers, and the boys believe they can do anything if they stick to the game plan.”
Schenectady will be getting a second crack at Saratoga (Suburban Council No. 5, 11-7) following an early-season scrimmage. The last time the teams met in the sectionals was in 2009, and the Patriots won to extend their all-time playoff record against the Blue Streaks to 4-1.
“When we scrimmaged them, they did a lot of good things. They shot the lights out,” Loudis said. “We’re hoping to throw a few things at them that they haven’t seen.”
Noah Arciero is a player that concerns the Patriots. Saratoga’s 6-foot-5 senior guard has been a consistent scorer throughout the season and poured in 34 points when the Blue Streaks ended their league campaign with a 59-53 triumph over Ballston Spa.
“He can shoot threes. Hit mid-range. Post up. A lot of stuff flows through him. If he’s on, it opens up the rest of the floor,” said Loudis. “We’ve got to make him distribute the ball. Get it out of his hands and make other guys beat us.”
There are other things Schenectady must do in order to get out of the opening round for the first time since a 2011 win over Columbia. Shenendehowa eliminated Schenectady in 2012, and Guilderland made it a one-and-done deal for the Pats last season.
“We’ve got to protect the ball. We’ve got to make free throws. We’ve got to stay out of foul trouble. We’ve got to play smart, meaning not just coming down court and jacking threes,” Loudis said. “We tend to speed up when we don’t need to.”
Schenectady JV champ
Schenectady’s roster tonight will include four players up from the school’s Big 10 junior varsity championship team in freshman Davon Barkley and sophomores Kevin Braye, Keivonty Williams and Roddy Delagrandeanse.
The JV Patriots completed their Big 10 title season with a 72-39 win over LaSalle. Williams scored 20 points in the victory, which left the young Pats 15-1 in the league and 17-1 overall. Coach John Miller’s Pats lost their only game at Albany, just before the LaSalle victory.
Among Schenectady’s season highlights was a 44-point effort by Barkley against Catholic Central, and a 40-point performance by sophomore Neftali Lind against Columbia. Lind was elevated to the varsity soon after his big scoring effort at the Arthur Hilliard Memorial Basketball Tournament in December.
Joe Green, a star athlete at Mont Pleasant and behind-the-scenes anchor for decades afterward, was honored in a brief tribute before the LaSalle-Schenectady varsity contest.
A longtime booster club leader and committee member with the Schenectady Athletic Advisory Council and Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame, Green passed away Feb. 5 at the age of 77.
He ran the concession stands at Mont Pleasant and Schenectady, and the one located at the Pat Riley Sports Center is named in his honor.
As an All-County player, Green helped the Mont Pleasant football teams go undefeated in 1954 and 1955. His 1954 team, which outscored its five opponents, 171-6, was honored in 2009 at the SCSD Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony.