It’s been eight years since the Schenectady High School boys’ basketball team has won the Arthur Hilliard Memorial Basketball Tournament.
But, as winners of five games in a row, this should be the year the Patriots emerge atop their own tournament’s four-team field, right? The title comes home this next Wednesday?
Pump the brakes. Not so fast. Calm down.
“Right now,” Schenectady head coach Eric Loudis said, “we just want to get to the championship game.”
That game-by-game approach has helped Schenectady (5-2, 6-2) push out to a surprisingly strong start in its first season in the Suburban Council. Schenectady entered this season with a roster sporting limited varsity playing experience outside of sophomore guard Tobias Holmes — a third-year varsity player who recently set his school’s single-game scoring record with 37 points — but the team has grown up quickly.
“The guys are getting adjusted to their roles, to what I expect,” Loudis said. “It’s a very close group. They all like each other and want to be successful together.”
Schenectady’s two-day tournament starts Tuesday. Niskayuna (5-2, 5-2) will take on Section IX’s Newburgh Free Academy (5-2) in the 5 p.m. semifinal, while Schenectady will take on Shaker (3-4, 3-5) at 6:45 p.m.
Schenectady and Shaker played each other on Tuesday, with Schenectady winning a 60-48 decision. From his team’s upcoming tournament games, though, Loudis said he cares more about seeing his club continue to progress than win-loss results.
“You don’t like to have a ‘good loss,’ but if we go down fighting and do all the right stuff, then so be it,” Loudis said. “For us, I want to compete. That’s the big thing.”
That’s a line of thinking first-year head coach Shawn Kline has been preaching to his Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake (0-7, 0-8) squad. The Spartans play host Tuesday and Wednesday to their annual Shawn Walsh Memorial Basketball Tournament, which features first-round games between Burnt Hills and Mekeel Christian Academy (7-0), and Section IX’s Saugerties (2-3) and Tamarac (4-4).
While Kline’s team has not won a game yet this season, the Spartans have shown improvement in the past couple weeks.
“They’re starting to buy in and feel good about what they’re doing,” Kline said. “They’ve won quarters against good teams. That’s helped them realize they’re going to put it all together.”
Mekeel Christian Academy is likely the best team in the Walsh field. Kline said he scheduled the Lions for the Spartans’ first-round opponent to make certain the two local schools get to play each other in the tournament.
“That’s a nice local school for us to play,” Kline said of Tuesday’s 7 p.m. nightcap. “It should draw a nice crowd.”
At the Pat Riley Sports Center, Loudis is expecting the same — especially if Niskayuna and Schenectady meet in Wednesday’s final. With a win Tuesday against Shaker, Schenectady will qualify for its 21st Hilliard championship game appearance.
At that point, Loudis said, his team will discuss bringing back the Hilliard title to its “rightful owner.”
‘GOT YOUR 6’
Everything about last Tuesday’s game between CBA (4-3, 4-4) and Shenendehowa (7-0, 7-0) was extra large.
A 23-0 run to start the game for the Plainsmen. Three referees to control the action in a 74-46 Shenendehowa win. A capacity crowd of 1,500 that was sold out a day in advance of the game.
Oh — and $3,000 in donations to Got Your 6, a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that primarily works with filmmakers and media companies to help highlight the positive contributions veterans make to society.
Shenendehowa began its connection with Got Your 6 earlier this school year and long circled its Dec. 22 boys’ basketball game as a kickoff event to celebrate the partnership.
“It was right before the holidays and our girls didn’t play tonight — we actually had nothing else on the schedule,” Shenendehowa athletic director Chris Culnan said that night. “We thought this would be a great way to send the kids into break . . . but it also sends a strong message about community service and getting involved.”
For the game, 630 tickets were sold to students, who wore white “6” T-shirts and filled up a sideline. From the sale of those tickets, a $1,500 donation was made from Shenendehowa students to Got Your 6.
Kait Hoit, Got Your 6’s director of communications and a 2002 Bethlehem High School graduate, was on hand to accept the donation.
“They’ve been hugely supportive with their staff, students, and faculty,” Hoit said of Shenendehowa, whose donation was matched by Mohawk Honda.
Culnan said the school — Got Your 6’s only scholastic partnership — will sponsor at least two more events for the group this winter sports season, those centered around a girls’ basketball game and a wrestling meet.
AT THE BUZZER
In the latest state rankings, Shenendehowa moved up to No. 7 in Class AA. The Plainsmen, last year’s state champions, were No. 10 in last week’s debut of the New York State Sportswriters Association poll. No other team from the Suburban Council was ranked this week. However, at the Class AA level, four teams — Colonie, Guilderland, Niskayuna, and Saratoga Springs — earned honorable mentions, while Troy did the same at Class A.
Three Suburban Council teams were included in the first set of girls’ basketball rankings released this past week. In Class AA, Shenendehowa was ranked sixth and Albany ninth; in Class A, Troy was No. 14.