ROTTERDAM — It sticks with them.
In their eyes, their football season didn’t finish the way it was supposed to end.
So the members of the undefeated Schalmont boys’ basketball team — which is loaded with multiple-sport athletes who also compete on the gridiron — are determined to make sure their current season ends the way they see fit.
“Most definitely,” Schalmont senior L.J. Randle said. “We weren’t satisfied with what we did in football. We’re going to make sure we finish this in basketball.”
Schalmont looked the part of a team with Section II and state championship aspirations in Tuesday’s 70-37 non-conference win against Niskayuna. Ranked No. 2 in the latest Class B state poll, the Sabres had little trouble separating from Class AA Niskayuna, a squad which has battled all season — and pushed many of the top teams — in the Suburban Council.
“They can go play against any of the guys we’ve played,” Niskayuna head coach Ben Smith said of the Sabres, “and they’ll give them a good run.”
Against Niskayuna (5-8), Schalmont (15-0) received a game-high 27 points from junior Shane O’Dell. Seven other Sabres scored, too, while a pair of players — senior Nick Boyd and Randle — scored 10 and junior Jake Sanford added nine in a game Schalmont led 33-16 at halftime.
“Their pieces are so good and they run to their spots better than anybody,” Smith said. “They run their stuff better than anybody.”
“Just moving without the ball,” O’Dell said of Schalmont’s attack. “We’re not trying to force anything.”
For much of the fall, Schalmont looked like a force. The gridiron Sabres won their first four games in impressive fashion, then saw injuries and illness derail their season. Schalmont lost its final four football games, the last three of which came in an eight-day stretch because of the reconfigured schedule the Sabres had to play after they became one of the area’s several teams that dealt with cases of Coxsackievirus.
Beyond the team’s health woes, though, the Sabres also dealt with overconfidence after their strong start to the football season.
“We got a little complacent,” said O’Dell, the football team’s quarterback. “We thought we were better than we really were, and we didn’t takes teams too serious.”
“But,” Schalmont senior Darnell Green said, “here, now, we’ve learned from that.”
And what did the Sabres learn?
“That every game, it doesn’t matter who is playing us,” O’Dell said. “We’re playing ourselves.”
“So we’re taking every game seriously, no matter who we are going against,” Green said. “We’re giving every game our 100 percent.”
Before the season, Schalmont head coach Greg Loiacono sensed his team could be special.
“Five weeks before the season started, these guys were in the gym once a week at 6 o’clock in the morning working with myself and [basketball trainer] Steve Dagostino. That’s the dedication they have, and that’s where the building of our team started,” said Loiacono, whose program fell in last year’s Section II Class B championship game to a Mekeel Christian Academy squad that later won a state championship. “And they’re a little upset about the way their football season ended. They have a chip on their shoulder from that.”
That collective chip, Randle said, won’t let the Sabres take a play off as their hoops season heads toward its postseason. Fifteen consecutive wins is great, but Schalmont’s focus is on making sure it takes all the steps necessary to string together postseason wins.
“That’s the standard we’re holding ourselves to,” Randle said. “So we don’t even think of this as a streak. We just want to beat every team that we face.”
E. St. Lucia 2-0-6, S. St. Lucia 2-0-6, Ziegler 0-2-2, Quinn 1-1-3, Brown 0-1-1, Cox 4-1-9, Benton 3-3-10. Totals: 12-8-37.
T. Randle 2-0-5, Strube 1-0-3, Sanford 3-0-9, Hosner 1-0-2, Green 2-0-4, L. Randle 3-2-10, Boyd 5-0-10, O’Dell 10-5-27. Totals: 27-7-70.
Niskayuna 7 9 15 6 — 37
Schalmont 13 20 20 17 — 70