GLENS FALLS — It wasn't a long run as far as basketball runs go. Just six points, but they were timely, and ultimately proved to be a significant factor in Saratoga Springs' title-drought ending 69-58 win over Bethlehem Saturday at Cool Insuring Arena.
Aidan Holmes dropped in a layup and Nate Chudy followed with a pair of foul line jumpers to begin the fourth quarter and give the Blue Streaks a cushion to work with, and they went on to secure the Section II Class AA championship against a group of Eagles who were looking to nab their second in three years.
"Getting it to 10 or 11, that was big for us," Saratoga coach Matt Usher said. "Double digits as opposed to four or five gives you breathing room. We knew they would come at us."
Bethlehem (No. 1 seed, 21-2) certainly did after Saratoga's opened up its 55-44 fourth-quarter lead, but the Blue Streaks (No. 2, 19-4) had enough answers to clinch their first area championship since the Tim Parker-led squad went the distance in 1988.
Holmes, the Class AA most valuable player, sank another layup after Bethlehem got within 56-52 on a three-point play by Jake Laclair, and Marcus Davis hit a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left after the Eagles pulled within 64-58 on a 3 by Zach Zonca.
"It definitely gave us some energy to clamp down on defense and translate it to offense," Chudy said of the 6-0 run.
Holmes scored the last six of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, when Saratoga finally gained some separation after leading by two (18-16), four (35-31) and five (49-44) at the quarter stops.
"These guys came to Glens Falls with a lot of confidence," Usher said. "We as a coaching staff stepped back and let them play. We called a few plays and ran a few sets, but that's when they're at their best. When they're loose, they just play."
Saratoga edged Colonie in the quarterfinals 41-39 and beat Shenendehowa in the semifinals 60-53 as a prelude to its payback win against Bethlehem. The Eagles beat the Blue Streaks 75-65 on Jan. 15.
"This is amazing. This is for all of Saratoga. We're back now," said Holmes, a junior guard who shot 9-for-15 from the field, grabbed six rebounds and picked up five assists. "We knew just because you have a good regular season doesn't mean you're going to have a good postseason. We didn't look past anyone."
Usher said he didn't mention the past, as in three decades ago, before the title tilt.
"We knew there was a long stretch of time since we were able to do this," Usher said. "I didn't want to overwhelm them with, 'I was five years old the last time' and that kind of thing. We can talk about it now."
Davis scored 12 points for Saratoga and made the all-tournament team, Mike Rogan had 11 points and a team-best seven rebounds, and Chudy totaled eight points highlighted by his clutch jumpers early in the fourth.
"Chudy did a great job for us in the second half," Usher said of his 6-foot-8 senior. "He made some huge shots for us."
"That's my shot. I love the elbow," Chudy said of his jumpers. "I've hit some big shots from there before."
Chudy's baskets gave Saratoga the biggest lead of the game for either team before Davis matched it with a game-ending free throw.
"It's a different guy every night," said Usher, who got a season-high 17 points from Charlie Beck in the semifinals. "That's tough to prepare for as an opponent."
Laclair's 12 points included five in the last quarter, and all-tournament picks Michael Ortale and Eric Salo also scored 12 points while combining for 21 rebounds.
Beck 2-2-7, Holmes 9-2-23, Davis 4-4-12, Rogan 3-2-11, Chudy 4-0-8, Fox 1-3-5, Kislowski 0-3-3. Totals: 23-16-69.
Barnes 3-0-8, Salo 4-4-12, Davis 1-0-3, Ortale 5-0-12, Zonca 3-0-8, Wakefield 1-1-3, Laclair 3-5-12. Totals: 20-10-58.
Saratoga Springs 18 17 14 20 — 69
Bethlehem 16 15 13 14 — 58