NISKAYUNA — Sean St. Lucia was getting frustrated, and Niskayuna boys’ basketball coach Mike Grasso could sense it. With less than a minute left in the third quarter of Friday night’s Suburban Council clash against Schenectady, the senior guard had scored just two points and was fighting desperately to make anything positive happen.
Rather than wait until the end of the quarter to let St. Lucia rest, Grasso brought him to the bench with about 45 seconds left to give him a few extra moments to decompress.
“It was a great decision by our coach,” St. Lucia said. “He was cooling me down, making sure I was energized and ready for the fourth.”
The move paid off in the fourth quarter as a rejuvenated St. Lucia scored 12 of his 14 points — including a perfect 8 of 8 performance from the free-throw line — and dished out a pair of key assists as a huge surge allowed Niskayuna to turn a seven-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter into a 57-49 win.
St. Lucia spent most of the game being double-teamed by Schenectady defenders as soon as he brought the ball over halfcourt, and was held scoreless from the middle of the first quarter until the 5:59 mark of the fourth quarter.
“There’s times where I was playing bad the whole game, and I really wanted to lose it sometimes,” St. Lucia said. “Our coach and my teammates really getting on me and telling me to be positive really helped me out.”
St. Lucia getting his game on track coincided with the Silver Warriors (6-1, 9-3) flipping the switch in the fourth quarter with a game-deciding 20-2 run. Once he put in back-to-back baskets early in the fourth, the game opened up and St. Lucia started finding teammates for wide-open looks.
“Sean is as unselfish as they come,” Grasso said. “He’s looking to make the right play, every single play. So when his shots weren’t falling, it didn’t change his mindset. His mindset was to make the right basketball play. He hit the open guys, they hit the shots and we came out with the win.”
Junior Jaden Giammattei was the biggest benefactor in the fourth quarter, knocking down three shots from 3-point range — including the go-ahead shot with 3:01 to play — as all nine of his points came in the fourth quarter.
“I couldn’t have gotten any of those shots without my teammates,” Giammattei said. “Guys were finding me looks and getting me shots. I really appreciate it. Without them, the shots wouldn’t be there.”
“Everybody has confidence in each other right now to take the shots and make the shots,” Grasso said. “Jaden stepped up and he knocked a couple down. They couldn’t have been any bigger for us tonight.”
Ethan St. Lucia, who carried Niskayuna through the team’s early struggles, also hit a key 3-pointer in the fourth on his way to a game-high 16 points. Kenyon Coleman added 11 points.
Sean St. Lucia only made three field goals, but he iced the game down the stretch by knocking down all eight of his free throw attempts.
“The fourth quarter, he just took over,” Grasso said. “It was amazing. He got his teammates involved, they made shots when they needed to. He’s just a great teammate and he’s forming into an amazing leader.”
Elijah Johnsen scored 14 points, and Kareem Sanders scored 12 for Schenectady (7-5).
Schenectady 9 16 11 13 — 49
Niskayuna 13 8 10 26 — 57
Schenectady scoring: Harris 1-0-3, Carrington 2-0-4, Winfield 3-2-8, Sanders 4-1-12, Rivero 4-0-8, Johnsen 5-0-14. Niskayuna scoring: Coleman 4-0-11, Giammattei 3-0-9, E. St. Lucia 5-2-16, S. St. Lucia 3-8-14, Eldaye 1-0-2, Parker 2-1-5. Scoring totals: Schenectady 19-3-49, Niskayuna 18-11-57.
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or on Twitter at @Adam_Shinder.