Outsiders have flocked to watch the undefeated Shenendehowa boys’ basketball team play this season, routinely filling up the Plainsmen’s home gymnasium to full capacity.
Longtime assistant coach Don Joss? Well, he finally got around to watching his first Shenendehowa game of the season Thursday night, an 88-57 win against Albany in which Plainsmen junior center Mike Pizziketti scored 32 points, and senior guard Kevin Huerter put together a triple-double with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Joss, who coached Shenendehowa head coach Tony Dzikas at Waterford-Halfmoon in the late 1980s, has not been ducking the Plainsmen. He hits every practice — usually the freshman and JV teams’ workouts, too — and usually sees the team before its games.
Then, he heads off to whatever gym Dzikas asks, serving as Shenendehowa’s lead scout of its Suburban Council foes. He only got to see Thursday’s win for Shenendehowa — its 40th consecutive victory in league play — because the game was off the league’s typical Tuesday/Friday schedule, so there was no game for him to go scout.
Increasingly, the Suburban Council’s teams rely on digital services to help with their preparation. Bryan Mattice, Niskayuna’s head coach, said occasionally he will scout a game in person, but he is able to get most of his scouting done from home by watching video files shared through Google Drive, Hudl or Krossover.
Dzikas uses those methods, too.
“Those programs, they make life so much easier for us,” he said. “You can call up all of a team’s out-of-bounds plays, get every stat you want — like it’s the NBA.”
In-person scouting, though, is not a lost art. It’s valued. At Schenectady, head coach Eric Loudis sends out his program’s modified coach most Tuesdays and Fridays to see upcoming varsity opponents. When Loudis is able, he heads out, too. His goal is to get as much of his scouting done from live reports as possible.
“Nothing beats a real game experience,” he wrote in an email.
That type of experience — that extra edge — is what Joss has given Shenendehowa this season.
“He brings things back to us that maybe the rest of the coaching staff doesn’t see,” Huerter said.
Before Shenendehowa played CBA back in December, Joss had seen the Brothers play four times. The Plainsmen’s next big game comes a week from tonight when they head to Troy, a squad Joss has seen “at least three times.”
“There’s a lot of benefits to seeing the games in person,” Joss said. “You can see the attitudes of the kids, hear coaches make some calls — and those things don’t show up [online].”
And there’s some less-than-serious things Joss has been able to help the Plainsmen with this season, too.
“Like, that Averill Park’s concessions stand has the best sloppy Joes,” Joss said.
While happy to play his role for the Plainsmen, Joss said he was glad to finally get to see his team in action. What he witnessed was a dominant effort from the state’s second-ranked team, as Shenendehowa broke the contest open with a 39-11 run from early in the first quarter to the midway point of the second.
Junior guard Luke Hicks had 13 points, but the main weapon for Shenendehowa (13-0, 16-0) against Albany (7-6, 8-7) was deft passes from Huerter to Pizziketti.
“I just find open spots and let him find me,” said Pizziketti, whose 32 points were a career-high tally.
For Albany, senior Isaiah Scurry had 20 points.
Shenendehowa was coming off a 12-point victory against Colonie in which the Plainsmen were taken out of their usual high-octane style.
Senior center Michael Gillooley — who had seven points and seven rebounds against Albany — said the Plainsmen did not let Tuesday’s game throw them off for too long.
“Colonie is a great team, and they’re having a great year,” Gillooley said. “They’re one of the teams we’re going to have to battle against in the future.”
In the coming weeks, Shenendehowa will be without Joss’ services. The coach heads to Florida for February, but plans to resume his role with the Plainsmen if they are still playing when he makes his way back to New York.
He’s scheduled to return back to the Capital Region on March 1, the same day as the Section II Class AA title game.
Chances are, if he’s not too tired from traveling, he’ll get his second chance of the season to watch Shenendehowa that night.
Scurry 8-1-20, Prato 4-0-11, Coons 3-0-8, Danzy 3-0-6, Nixon 2-0-4, Reynolds 1-0-3, Skeen 1-1-3, Jorge 1-0-2. Total: 23-2-57.
Pizziketti 11-10-32, Huerter 5-4-18, Hicks 3-5-13, Gillooley 3-1-7, Collins 2-0-5, Benson 1-0-3, Beyer 1-0-3, McMahon 1-0-3, Paddock 1-0-2, Warner 1-0-2. Total: 29-20-88.
Albany 9 10 18 20 — 57
Shenendehowa 21 25 23 19 — 88
Three-point goals: Prato 3, Scurry 3, Coons 2, Reynolds, Huerter 4, Hicks 2, Benson, Beyer, Collins, McMahon.