MECHANICVILLE — Stillwater wasn’t scoring or making enough stops in the first half of its Wasaren League basketball game at rival Mechanicville Wednesday night, so veteran coach Dave Cook made a switch.
“You get down like that, you need to change momentum,” Cook said.
The Warriors used their fullcourt pressure to create turnovers and force the Red Raiders into a slew of quick shots in a 63-53 comeback victory that kept Stillwater within striking distance of league-leading Hoosick Falls.
“We’re bigger then them,” Mechanicville coach Rian Richardson said after his team let a 17-point, second-quarter lead get away. “They’re quicker, and they used that to their advantage.
“We fell apart.”
Stillwater outscored Mechanicville 20-11 in the third quarter and 19-6 in the fourth to complete a two-game sweep of a team it dismantled at home 72-43 back on Dec. 7.
“The last game means nothing,” Stillwater senior guard Nate Thrane said after collecting 16 points and three steals, each of them coming in his team’s second-half blitz. “They had three starters out the last time we played. We knew this would be a different kind of game.”
Mechanicville (5-5, 6-8) made it that way after racing to a 36-19 lead in the first half. The Red Raiders allowed only three field goals during that run, and got 15 points from senior forward Zach Hensen, one of the starters who missed the previous meeting due to academic issues.
“We moved the ball,” Richardson said of his young team’s superb first half. “We knocked down shots. We worked hard at the defensive end.”
In the second half, it was Stillwater’s turn.“We knew they couldn’t handle our pressure,” Stillwater senior guard Jared D’Aloia said. “In the second half we had to come out with urgency and we got turnover after turnover.”
Stillwater (8-2, 11-3) used 15-0 spurt spanning the third and fourth quarters to turn a 47-40 deficit into a 55-47 lead. Tyler Cage and Ezra Echeandia both turned a steal into a layup during the key stretch, Echeandia dropped in another layup, Thrane sank a three-pointer and two foul shots, and D’Aloia hit a pair of jumpers.
“I just stayed positive the whole time,” said D’Aloia, who delivered 15 of his 27 points after the intermision. “I told the guys we’ve got to chip at the lead, and that’s what we did.”
Cook emphasized that during the halftime break. Just before that, Zach Travis scored on a putback and D’Aloia drilled a 3-point basket to begin Stillwater’s grand comeback which led to its 10th win in 11 games.
“I told my guys, ‘Even though you trail by 17, you have to be patient,’ ” Cook said. “ ‘One stop at a time. One score at a time. Stay together and good things will happen.’ ”
Thrane scored 12 of his 16 points, Cage had three steals and Echeandia had two steals and a blocked shot in the second half.
“There’s no quit in Stillwater,” Cook said. “The whole group came together. Before we went out I told them we’ve got to have huge effort from everybody in the second half.”
Thrane’s two free throws gave Stillwater a 48-47 lead with 6:54 left in the fourth quarter, the Warriors first lead since 3-2.
“In the first half we had a lot of open looks that didn’t fall,” Thrane said. “The second half we turned it around.”
Mechanicville struggled in the second half against Stillwater’s fullcourt pressure and finding open looks.
“They forced us into taking bad shots,” Richardson said. “That’s what they wanted. Then again we’re young. We graduated five starters.”
Stillwater played halfcourt defense in the first half.
“We did not play up to our standards defensively, and they made a ton of shots,” Cook said. “They were lights out.”
Hansen’s big first half included a three-point play that gave Mechanicville it’s 36-19 advantage. Though the 6-foot-5 senior managed only four second-half points, he snared seven of his 11 rebounds during that time before fouling out with 1:57 to go.
“He’s capable of doing that,” Richardson said of Hansen’s first-half production.
Freshman guard Kendrick McCann had 13 points for the Red Raiders as well as four assists and three steals. His 3-pointer ended a Mechanicville scoring drought in the fourth quarter with 4:43 to go, after Stillwater’s lead had grown to 55-47.
Travis had 14 points for Stillwater and Echeandia — one of the stars in the Warriors overtime Indian Bowl football win against the Red Raiders last fall — finished with 10 rebounds.
D’Aloia 6-14,27, Travis 6-1-14, Thrane 4-4-16, Cage 1-0-2, Echeandia 2-0-4. Totals: 19-19-63.
Hansen 8-3-19, R. McCann 1-0-2, Sullivan 1-1-3, McHale 3-0-7, Billert 4-1-9, K. McCann 6-0-13. Totals: 23-5-53.
Stillwater 13 11 20 19 — 63
Mechanicville 20 16 11 6 — 53
Three-point goals: D’Aloia, Travis, Thrane 4, McHale, K. McCann.