The only thing that bothered Shenendehowa boys’ basketball head coach Tony Dzikas about his program’s first game in the post-Kevin Huerter Era, well, didn’t really bother him.
“I was shocked that we didn’t shoot very well. We’re a good shooting team, and we had a lot of good looks and they didn’t go down,” Dzikas said. “But we’re not going to dwell on that.”
In the future, the open looks will result in more points for Shenendehowa. What the Plainsmen showed Tuesday night against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, though, was that their defense came into the 2016-17 season as a proven commodity. In a 67-34 Suburban Council victory, Shenendehowa held the Spartans to single-digit scoring outputs in two separate quarters.
“Our defense was there all game,” Shenendehowa senior Luke Hicks said. “I think we can rely on our defense for when our shots aren’t falling.”
Primarily using a full-court trapping defense that fell back into a 3-2 zone, Shenendehowa (1-0, 1-0) forced the Spartans (0-1, 0-2) into a 2-for-14 shooting performance in the first quarter. Shenendehowa led 19-5 after that period, and the Plainsmen’s lead never dwindled to fewer than eight points the rest of the way.
“Overall, defensively, I was very happy,” Dzikas said.
The Plainsmen — who won a Class AA state title in 2015 and saw their most-recent season end in the state semifinals — relied heavily on offense last season on Huerter, who swept New York’s three major player-of-the-year awards for the 2015-16 season and is now a starter for the University of Maryland. Shenendehowa also graduated starters Mike Collins and Petar Bebic from last year’s roster, but this season’s squad is expected to again contend as one of the area’s best teams.
This year’s top star for Shenendehowa is Hicks, who did a little bit of everything for the Plainsmen in their opener. The guard won the game’s opening jump ball, poured in a game-high 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the victory.
“It was good that we got our butterflies out of the way,” Hicks said of the Plainsmen, who won Class AA area crowns in his first two seasons on the varsity. “We got everyone into the game, and it was good for [the varsity rookies] to get the feel of their first game and for the returners to get that first game of the season under our belts.”
Besides Hicks, no other Shenendehowa player scored in double figures. Senior Danny Beyer had nine points, while senior Jaia Benson and junior Jake Dzikas each had eight points.
Burnt Hills, which lost 75-57 in its season-opening game against Scotia-Glenville,
received a team-high 18 points from senior Ben Keppler.
Shenendehowa’s biggest lead in the first half came at 25-8 early in the second quarter, but Burnt Hills battled back to cut its deficit to eight points late in the period. The Plainsmen scored the final four points of the first half, though, and rattled off 16-3 third quarter as part of an overall 23-3 run that stretched from late in the second quarter to early in the final period.
“We came out and defended very well in the third quarter,” Tony Dzikas said.
All night, though, Shenendehowa struggled to convert its good ball movement and open looks into baskets. Outside of Beyer — who made
3 of 5 3-point attempts — the rest of the Plainsmen made 5 of 23 attempts from 3-point territory.
“We’re going to have off nights,” Hicks said, “but there’s also going to be nights where it seems like we can’t miss.”
Tuesday’s victory was the 45th in a row for Shenendehowa inside of league play. The Plainsmen’s last loss in league action came Jan. 4, 2014, against Columbia.
Next up, Shenendehowa plays host Friday to Averill Park, while Burnt Hills will travel to Shaker that night.
Hicks 6-4-19, Pizziketti 3-0-6, Dzikas 2-2-8, Benson 3-2-8, Brown 2-0-4, Beyer 3-0-9, Monroe 3-0-6, Canterbury 1-0-2, Hulbert 1-1-3, McMahon 1-0-2. Totals: 25-9-67.
BURNT HILLS-BALLSTON LAKE
Fisher 1-0-3, LaPietro 2-0-4, Keppler 6-2-18, Slovic 1-0-3, Visco 1-0-3, Petroski 0-1-1, McCormick 1-0-2. Totals: 12-3-34.
Shenendehowa 19 11 16 21 — 67
Burnt Hills 5 13 3 13 — 34
Three-point goals: Beyer 3, Hicks 3, Dzikas 2, Kepler 4, Visco, Fisher, Slovic.