GLENS FALLS — For stretches Friday against Johnstown, Glens Falls junior Joseph Girard III struggled with his shot.
But he kept shooting.
And — this is important — nobody on the Glens Falls boys’ basketball team yelled for the ball, waved their arms to signal he’d been open or stopped hustling.
Girard III was playing his role.
So were his teammates.
“And I have some of the best teammates in the world,” Girard III said after his team’s 91-71 win. “I wouldn’t trade them for anyone.”
Throughout a historic season for Girard III, the Glens Falls junior has routinely expressed that sentiment. It’s easy to see why. Girard III continues to score at mind-boggling rate, and his teammates don’t worry about the shots they aren’t taking as much as they worry about making sure they play their part in what could be another championship season for the Indians.
“It might sound dumb, but our kids really understand their roles,” Glens Falls head coach Rob Girard. “That’s cliche and all that garbage, but they know their roles and that when we need a basket, we’re going to run stuff for Joe.”
“And we need him to score a lot,” said junior Trenton Girard, the coach’s son and a cousin of Girard III’s. “We know what he’s going to do and we need him to do it — and we know he’s going to get it done.”
Girard III led Glens Falls (11-2, 13-2) with 54 points against Johnstown (2-10, 2-11), but admitted the night’s game — which counted University of Michigan men’s basketball head coach John Beilein as a spectator — had been a struggle for him.
His shot was off, and the Sir Bills threw a couple defenders at him every play on a night where Glens Falls was without four of its players because of suspensions stemming from a late-game altercation last week against Hudson Falls.
Still, Girard III managed to boost his season’s scoring average to 50.1.
“He didn’t shoot great tonight,” Rob Girard said.
“We all know Joe’s a great player,” Glens Falls sophomore Dave Barclay said. “He’s a Division I player. Probably an NBA player.”
So his teammates kept working the ball to Girard III, who pulled to within 38 of Lance Stephenson’s all-time state scoring record of 2,946 points. With 39 points Tuesday at Amsterdam, Girard III will move past the current member of the Indiana Pacers, who played at Brooklyn’s Abraham Lincoln from 2004 to 2009.
It might sound simple for the other Glens Falls players to let Girard III shoot as often as he does, but so many teams — from the youth ranks to the pros — feature clashes over shots.
And, then, there’s this Glens Falls team, where Barclay said he views his role as “helping [Girard III] in any way” and Trenton Girard’s top post-game concern is “how many did Joe have?”
Rob Girard knows that type of selflessness is not normal. It’s what he views as his team’s top strength.
“This group, they like each other,” Rob Girard said. “They are having fun all the time.”
So it’s not a problem for the team when Girard III takes 10 shots or more in a quarter. Everyone on the Indians, Rob Girard said, has the green light to let it fly — but they get that they have a special teammate, one who has scored 56.9 percent of the team’s points this season.
“It’s definitely different,” said Trenton Girard, who scored 18 points against Johnstown. “When I was on JV and stuff, I was the one with the ball a lot of the time, but I knew when I got up on varsity with Joe, it would change a lot, and I’d have to be more of a spot-up shooter than a ball-handler because that’s what Joe does. But he’s always looking for me and I try to knock down shots when it gets to me.”
Trenton Girard does do that, just like how junior Connor Girard, Barclay and other Glens Falls players do their part in chasing down loose balls and rebounds for the Indians.
“And that’s why we’re such a good team,” Girard III said.
Stover 1-1-3, Porter 4-2-10, Wilson 3-3-12, Hoyt 6-2-14, Boyle 7-11-26, Feinour 3-0-6. Totals: 24-19-71.
Balcom 1-0-2, Barclay 3-1-7, Bren 1-0-2, J. Girard 19-7-54, T. Girard 7-0-18, C. Girard 2-0-4, Quirk 1-2-4. Totals: 34-10-91.
Johnstown 13 22 18 18 — 71
Glens Falls 24 25 18 24 — 91
Three-point goals: Wilson 3, Boyle, J. Girard 9, T. Girard 4.