Ken Dagostino took a little extra time before joining his Colonie basketball team on the bus waiting outside in the Saratoga Springs High School parking lot.
The veteran coach sat in the locker room, savoring the comeback win with longtime assistant John Karbowski, but more so, relishing in his young cast’s demeanor that made it happen.
“I give them a pat on the back for holding it together,” Dagostino said after Friday’s 54-49 triumph over the Blue Streaks. “You saw their composure and resiliency. Wasn’t that something?”
You can tell Colonie’s second-year coach likes his team, and it is HIS team, with a starting five of three sophomores and two juniors, and a reserve group that included a pair of 11th-graders among the top three.
Junior guard Josh Paszkowski is the only returning starter, while sophomore forward Bryce Waterman was the sixth man last season.
“Last year, we kept everybody,” Dagostino said. “This is a new year. We have two guys who have played.”
The Garnet Raiders rallied to beat Bethlehem before their comeback at Saratoga, and defeated Suburban Council newcomers Albany and Troy before that.
At 4-0, the Garnet Raiders are tied for first in the league’s Blue Division with Shenendehowa, and are one win away from last season’s total that was achieved with seven seniors in the mix. This year’s team has four.
“We’re on a fun roller coaster,” Dagostino said. “We’re so young. The reality is, somewhere it’s going to dip a little bit.”
Dagostino’s objective is to take Colonie to a level it hasn’t reached in years, like he did at Mohonasen in a nine-season renaissance that ran through 2014.
His Mohonasen teams strived and climbed after humble beginnings, and ultimately reached four Section II final fours while taking the Class A championship in 2011 to end a nearly two-decade drought.
Colonie enjoyed its last winning season in 2009-10, and its last Section II titles came back-to-back in 1999 and 2000.
“It’s a Mohonasen challenge. It really is. It’s like Mohonasen all over,” Dagostino said. “At 37, I might be trying to boost my record. At age 57, I’m here to rebuild.”
While Dagostino applauded his team after Friday’s win after they erased an eight-point deficit over the last five minutes, he also emphasized the need to improve. He already knows they have plenty of grit. He wants a tighter matchup zone defense and sharper execution with the ball to go with that fire.
“We’ve got to look in the mirror,” he said. “In our first two games, we had big leads and they got it down to two. This past week, we were down in both games, and we were fortunate to win. We need to stay grounded. We could easily be 0-4. We need to get better.”
Colonie did that Friday after Saratoga opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run to go up 33-24 in what it, too, hoped would be it’s fourth straight win.
“That 8-0 run,” Dagostino said. “We knew they were good. We saw them on tape and they’re going to beat people. Another basket, and I don’t know if we could have come back.”
Waterman ended a near four-minute, third-quarter drought with a three-pointer, and in the next frame, he began a game-deciding 15-0 thrust with the last of his five bombs from beyond the arc. Junior forward Brendan Mulson made a big impact late in that run with a three, two foul shots and an offensive rebound that led to two free throws by sophomore forward Isaiah Moll and a 50-43 lead.
“We’ve got to win games when we’re even with them. There may be other games when we ask them to compete and battle,” Dagostino said. “When they come back next year, we’ll ask for more. When they come back the year after that, we’ll ask for even more.”
Colonie will host Niskayuna (3-1) tonight and go to Guilderland (3-1) Friday, meeting teams that have lost only to reigning state Class AA champion Shenendehowa (4-0).
“I told them Saturday, it’s ‘ESPN Championship Week’ for us,” Dagostino said. “They’re both very good. We’ll find out where we are with those guys.”
Scotia-Glenville’s state championship basketball team from last season and Schalmont’s state final four basketball team from 1996 will be honored next week.
Scotia-Glenville’s state Class A title banner will be unveiled and the Tartans will receive rings in a ceremony before next Tuesday’s varsity game against Broadalbin-Perth. Coach Jim Giammattei’s Tartans capped a 26-1 season with a 54-49 victory over Greece Athena in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final before a 68-63 overtime loss to Canisius in the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions semifinals.
Joe Cremo, Mike Palleschi, Scott Stopera, Diamond Corker and Joe Almond started for the Tartans. Cremo, Palleschi and Stopera also started for Scotia-Glenville’s 2013-14 edition that captured NYSPHSAA and Federation titles and finished with a 27-0 record.
Schalmont’s 24-2 team will be recognized at halftime of Monday’s varsity game with Fonda-Fultonville. Led by coach Ron Osinski and his sons, Corey and Kevin, the Sabres beat Gloversville 57-43 to claim the 1996 Section II Class B flag, topped Nottingham in an overtime 60-55 and later went OT against Elton Brand’s Peekskill squad in a 64-60 NYSPHSAA semifinal setback.
That was the last Schalmont team to win a Colonial Council title and play for a Section II championship before last season’s edition did both.
GFCC GETS FEDERATION
The New York State Federation Tournament of Champions is returning to the Glens Falls Civic Center.
The New York State Federation of Secondary School Athletic Associations (NYSFSSAA) voted last week to give Glens Falls a three-year contract to host the season-ending basketball showcase for boys and girls starting in 2017.
Boys’ Federation games were held in Glens Falls from 1981 through 2010, and girls’ contests were staged there from 1995 through 2010. Federation games were played at the Times Union Center in Albany from 2011-14 before last year’s run at the University at Albany.
The 2016 Federation tournament is set for March 18-20 at the Times Union Center.
Glens Falls will likely learn Friday if it will retain the New York State Public High School Athletic Association boys tournament beyond 2016. The NYSPHSAA’s Executive Committee will choose between Glens Falls and Binghamton.
Natalie Schurman and Gary Bynon of state Class A champion Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake have been selected the New York Volleyball Coaches Association’s Section II girls’ Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, respectively.
Schurman was selected the state tournament most valuable player after the Spartans secured their sixth championship under Bynon with a sweep of Walter Panas. The Spartans went 31-1 in setting a program record for victories.
Schurman was a member of four state final teams, and also helped BH-BL win the New York crown as a freshman. This season, the all-state first-team outside hitter collected 287 kills, 292 digs and 52 aces. She is the fourth Spartan to surpass 1,000 career kills (1,029).
Bethlehem senior outside hitter Aaron Caark and Shenendehowa coach John Coletta earned the Section II boys’ awards from the NYVCA.
Caark had 323 kills and 40 aces for the Eagles, who placed second to Shenendehowa in the Section II Division 1 tournament. Caark was tabbed the Suburban Council MVP, while Shenendehowa went on to make its first state semifinal appearance.
The Colonie girls’ cross country team and the Schalmont girls’ soccer team placed third in the fall portion of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Scholar-Athlete Team Awards program.
Colonie athletes combined for 98.70 classroom average to finish behind Jericho (99.30) and champion Irvington (99.71). Schalmont athletes joined for a 97.81 average to take third behind Wayland-Cohocton (98.10) and first place Wheatley (98.14).
Schalmont’s competitive cheerleading team placed ninth in the state (95.48), while Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake also had a pair of Top-10 teams in girls’ volleyball (seventh, 97.61) and boys’ golf (10th, 95.48).
Other Section II schools with Top-10 teams are Averill Park (girls’ tennis, seventh, 98.12), Albany Academy (boys’ cross country, seventh, 98.12), Guilderland (boys’ golf, ninth, 95.48), and Bethlehem (girls’ golf, ninth, 92.27).