SCHENECTADY — There are many differences between this Schenectady basketball team and the one that finished two games over .500 last season. Making free throws is among them.
“We’re up 20 percent from last year,” coach Eric Loudis said after his Patriots used their accuracy from the foul line to edge Troy 77-74 in a Suburban Council game Tuesday night. “Our free throws are significantly better. That’s the difference between a mediocre team and an elite team.
“Last year we couldn’t finish games at the line.”
Senior forward John Ryals played a major role in dispatching a Troy team that reached the state Class A title game last winter with a career-high 30 points, including 15 in the final quarter. That output over the final eight minutes included a 13-for-14 effort from the line and Schenectady’s only field goal of the quarter, a layup that made it 75-72 with 13 seconds left.
“When I got to the foul line, I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to put them in,’ ” said Ryals, who had scored 31 points in Schenectady’s first two games. “Same rotation. Spin the ball. Shoot.”
Ryals’ final free throws gave the Pats a 77-72 advantage before Ryan Carmello’s buzzer-beating jumper capped a wild second half that saw Troy (1-2, 2-2) rally from 14 points down to pull even.
“We did what we had to do to get out of there with a victory,” Loudis said after his team went 27-for-39 from the line overall and 17-for-22 in the final quarter. “That’s a good team.”
Troy had beaten Schenectady (3-0, 3-0) three straight times and none of those games were close at the end. The latest meeting was, though the Flying Horses were never able to grab a lead after Joe Casale’s putback basket tied it at 71 with just over two minutes left.
“Schenectady is tough,” Troy coach Rich Hurley said. “Coach Loudis has been waiting for this group for a long time. They’re going to be real good.”
Cameron Coles had 16 points, including a foul shot that broke the tie at 71, and Dashawn Westbrook netted 14 points. Daniel Buie led Troy with 31 points before fouling out with 5:35 left. Three of his teammates fouled out later.
“In the third quarter, we were both in the bonus,” Loudis said. “There were a lot of fouls called. In our timeouts, we were saying we have to hit our foul shots.”
Ryals made his first foul shot to complete a three-point play moments into the game, and was 17-for-19 from the line in all.
“In clutch time, we hit our free throws,” Ryals said. “That was huge for us.”
Troy put together a hugh comeback after Lamar Fisher’s layup gave Schenectady a 57-43 lead late in the third quarter. The Flying Horses ended the frame with an 8-1 push and kept coming.
“That’s Troy High basketball,” Hurley said. “They don’t quit. They competed. They expect to win the game.”
Ethan Evans sank his first free throw and missed a second, and Casale turned that into his putback basket as Troy forged a tie. Tyrone Jenkins made a foul shot after Coles’ to put the Pats up 73-71 with 27.3 seconds remaining.
“We started speeding up and we got out of our game,” Ryals said of Troy’s comeback. “I was trying to get everyone to calm down. Chill out. I was trying to tell the guys we got this.”
Schenectady built a 41-30 halftime lead on the strength of 9-0 and 8-0 runs in the second quarter. Ryals scored all nine points in the first spurt when the Pats pulled away from a 19-19 tie, and Coles delivered five in the second flurry that made it 37-23.
Loudis subbed often as the half neared its end, and one of his reserves, Elijah Nisbitt, took two charges.
“Both coaches went deep in their bench,” Loudis said. “There were several guys who came in for us that came through.”
Schenectady defeated Bethlehem (68-66) and Guilderland (61-54) before taking down Troy.
“For us to come out and get three wins against three good teams like that, it gives us a lot of confidence,” Loudis said.
Buie, Troy’s standout junior guard, scored 16 points in the third quarter. He went 11-for-14 from the line and Troy went 22-for-31 in all.
Jenkins was the lone Patriots to foul out. His seven points featured a one-handed slam in the opening quarter.
Buie 8-11-31, Carmello 3-4-10, Casale 2-2-6, Chaney 2-0-4, Curley 1-0-2, Davis 2-2-6, Evans 1-1-3, Holmes 2-0-6, Merritt 2-2-6. Totals: 23-22-74.
Baez 1-1-3, Coles 6-2-16, Fisher 1-0-2, Jenkins 2-2-7, Nisbitt 1-3-5, Ryals 6-17-30, Westbrook 4-2-14. Totals: 21-27-77.
Troy 15 15 21 23 — 74
Schenectady 19 22 17 19 — 77
Three-point goals: Buie 4, Holmes 2, Coles 2, Jenkins, Ryals, Westbrook 4.