Back in December, Niskayuna captured the Arthur Hilliard Memorial Tournament championship with a big second half at Schenectady. There have been ups and downs — especially downs recently — since.
But with a return to the Pat Riley Sports Center, the Silver Warriors got back to their winning ways Friday night, and the same guy who starred in December led them again.
Andrew Evans scored 21 of his season-high 36 points over the final two quarters, and Niskayuna ended a three-game slide with a back-and-forth 70-65 Suburban Council victory over the Patriots.
“Coach said they’ll be hungry. We knew they were going to be ready,” Evans, a senior guard, said. “When they went on their runs, we were able to contain it with tough defense and good ball movement.
“That’s what we hadn’t been doing so great the last few games.”
Niskayuna (8-6, 10-7) raced to a 22-12 first-quarter lead, and after Schenectady (11-6, 9-5) sliced its deficit to 32-20 at the break, the Silver Warriors put together a 22-10 third-quarter spree before holding on.
“It was like a revenge game,” said Schenectady junior forward John Ryals, who had 12 points and six rebounds. “We did better than the last time, but it didn’t work out like we planned.”
In the Hilliard final, Evans produced 22 of his 33 points in the second half, when Niskayuna surged to a 75-59 win. He knocked down five threes that night.
On Friday, he jacked up six more, to go with an 8-for-8 free throw showing. His last two, with 26.8 seconds left and in a 1-and-1 situation, made it a 68-63 game.
“He’s got a quick release,” Niskayuna coach Bryan Mattice said of his scoring leader. “He doesn’t need a lot of space to get his shot off. He can go through traffic. He finds a way to put it in.”
Evans delivered 14 points in the third quarter when Niskayuna upped its two-point advantage to 14, at 54-40. His backcourt mate, senior guard Tommy Kelly, notched six of his 15 points in that 22-10 third-quarter run.
“The third quarter has been our nemesis,” Schenectady coach Eric Loudis said. “We got out of a flow. We got stagnant, and we can’t do that this late in the season.”
Schenectady rallied in the fourth behind Dashawn Westbrook, who came off the bench and sank three threes in the quarter, and Tyrone Jenkins, who hit a three and converted a three-point play.
“The fight was good,” Loudis said.
Westbrook’s final three got Schenectady within 66-63 with 1:22 left. A missed layup on Schenectady’s next trip, and a missed box out on a defensive rebound soon after, hurt the Patriots. That missed box out led to foul and Evans’ final free throws.
“You can’t blame it on youth anymore,” Loudis said of the late miscues. “You’ve just got to get it done.”
Ryals scored Schenectady’s final basket and Kelly completed the scoring with a pair from the line, making it 70-65 with 11 seconds left.
Aidan Byrne had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Niskayuna, and Jared Houghtaling contributed eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks to go with a layup that gave his team a 66-60 lead.
“This team is refocused,” said Mattice, whose Silver Warriors had lost their last three by five, one and seven points. “We’re getting ready for the postseason. This was important for us to get back on the right track.”
Tobias Holmes had 12 points for Schenectady before leaving in the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury of unknown severity. Roddy Delagrandeanse had 10 points, including two slam dunks when the Patriots outscored the Silver Warriors 18-10 in the second quarter.
“We’re a team that fights hard,” Ryals said. “Even in a big deficit, we try to come back.”
Schenectady had a three-game win streak halted.
Byrne 4-2-10, Detrick 1-0-2, Evans 11-8-36, Houghtaling 1-0-2, Kelly 5-4-15, Rock 1-2-4, Wise 0-1-1. Totals: 23-17-70.
Coles 2-3-7, Delagrandeanse 4-2-10, Holmes 5-1-12, Jenkins 3-2-9, Ryals 5-2-12, Tchako 1-0-2, Westbrook 3-0-9, Williams 2-0-4. Totals: 25-10-65.
Niskayuna 22 10 22 16 — 70
Schenectady 12 18 10 25 — 65
Three-point goals: Evans 6, Kelly, Holmes, Jenkins, Westbrook 3.