NISKAYUNA — Saratoga Springs found itself in another close game Friday night, and found a way to win once again.
Aidan Holmes turned in a strong second half after Nate Chudy and his frontline mates made their presence felt earlier on, and the Blue Streaks beat a gritty Niskayuna lot 67-54 in a Suburban Council Blue Division matchup
Saratoga improved to 8-0 in the league and 11-0 overall.
"The bigs opened it up for me," Holmes said after scoring 15 of his 19 points in the second half. "I don't think anyone in the league has bigs like us."
Chudy, Will Fox and Michael Rogan combined for 27 first-half points to help Saratoga build a 33-24 lead. Chudy, the Blue Streaks 6-foot-8 senior center who will pitch for the Holy Cross baseball team, delivered 14 of those points, including two short jumpers and a tip-in in an 8-0 spurt.
"We came out in the second half and went diamond-and-one on Chudy because he was hurting us so much," Niskayuna coach Ben Smith said. "Holmes stepped up."
Holmes' 11 third-quarter points included a trio of 3s. Two of those came back-to-back midway through and kick-started a 10-2 run after Niskayuna had closed to within 44-37.
"I was confident," Holmes said. "That was a big point swing."
Chudy and Fox both sank two free throws to cap the 10-2 spurt, and Holmes nailed another 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter.
"It's great," Chudy said of Saratoga's vast array of scoring threats. "If someone is hot and they start putting pressure on them, we'll look somewhere else."
"I like the balance we have on this team," coach Matt Usher said of his Blue Streaks, whose earlier this week climbed to No. 23 on the state Class AA poll. "We have guys who can score inside and guards who can shoot. We didn't score that way last year. We're different. Last year, we were more perimeter oriented."
Chudy finished with 24 points, and the 6-6 Fox had 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocked shots. Rogan, who goes 6-5, added nine points. Rogan scored seven points in the second quarter. Fox had six in the opening period.
"Give Usher credit," Smith said. "He has all of those pieces and he has them working well together. That's why they're winning close games."
Chudy scored six points in a put-away fourth quarter.
"Chudy and Holmes had to shoot 60, 65 percent between them," Smith said. "They were hot."
Saratoga ended up winning by double digits for the third time since the new year. In its first eight games, Saratoga won by single digits seven times with two one-point victories and two two-point triumphs.
"We're figuring out our roles. We're playing better together as a group," said Usher, who returned only Chudy from last season's starting lineup. "We still have some things to figure out on the defensive side and we've got to keep improving. We're just trying to get better."
Niskayuna (3-5, 5-5) is thinking the same way.
"Being .500 is a huge step in the right direction, but we're not satisfied," Smith said. "That locker room is an angry place."
Nick Benton paced Niskayuna with 17 points, and Richie Quinn had 15, with the senior's 3-pointer pulling his team within 44-37 before Saratoga broke the game open. Sean St. Lucia added 12 points and four assists for the Silver Warriors.
"We're fighting," Smith said. "We've got fight. That's for sure."
Holmes 7-1-19, D'Agostino 0-3-3, Rogan 4-0-9, Chudy 10-4-24, Fox 3-3-10, Dufort 0-2-2. Totals: 24-13-67.
E. St. Lucia 2-0-6, S. St. Lucia 5-0-12, Halusic 1-0-2, Quinn 5-2-15, Cox 1-0-2, Benton 6-3-17. Totals: 20-5-54.
Saratoga 18 15 21 13 — 67
Niskayuna 11 13 15 15 — 54