NISKAYUNA — Why not the Silver Warriors?
That’s their take, for sure.
“Absolutely,” Niskayuna senior Sean St. Lucia said.
After a solid regular season that bordered on being more than that at several points, the Niskayuna boys’ basketball team started its postseason run with a 61-33 win Wednesday against Ballston Spa, an impressive showing the Silver Warriors highlighted with a spectacular second half.
“We’re ready,” Niskayuna first-year head coach Mike Grasso said. “We’ve been planning for this the entire season.”
It took Niskayuna (No. 5, 14-7) a bit to get going against Ballston Spa (No. 12, 6-15) in the first round of the Section II Class AA tournament. Only ahead 18-12 at halftime, though, Niskayuna rolled after the break to bring a 40-19 lead into a final quarter that never saw the Scotties threaten the home team.
“We weren’t passing the ball enough,” Sean St. Lucia said. “In the second half, we started playing as a team, and it started flowing from there.”
Sean St. Lucia had nine points and set up one basket after another for his teammates, while sophomore Darian Parker led Niskayuna with 11 points, and sophomore Gabe Eldaye and senior Ethan St. Lucia each added 10. Niskayuna will next play 2 p.m. Saturday against fourth-seeded Bethlehem at Hudson Valley Community College.
A four-year varsity player, Sean St. Lucia said Wednesday’s win was extra sweet since it was the first postseason victory of his career. Niskayuna, though, headed into its matchup with Ballston Spa a confident group and ready to advance to the next round of postseason play.
“We just stayed level-headed and our defense was the key,” Grasso said.
Playing a zone defense, Niskayuna always made sure to keep track of Ballston Spa’s high-scoring senior Keegan Zoller. Niskayuna limited the Scotties’ star to nine points.
“He’s an incredible player,” Sean St. Lucia said. “One of the best scorers I’ve ever played against. We had to give him that respect.”
“And our defense was outstanding the entire game,” Grasso said. “We needed to lock in on the defensive end. Keegan is amazing as a player and he was the focus, but they have a bunch of other players, too, that can shoot the ball and make things happen.”
Nick Verdile led Ballston Spa with a dozen points. Until they scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Scotties didn’t register more than seven points in any of the game’s first three periods.
“Coach always emphasizes with us our defense,” Parker said. “We’ve been doing that all year.”
With one playoff win secured, Parker said the Silver Warriors are ready to go after some more of them. Niskayuna knows it will need to be more consistent offensively to advance to the semifinals, but Parker said his team is confident it will be prepared for the next round of play.
“Whatever Coach’s plan is,” Parker said, “we’ve got it.”
Ballston Spa 5 7 7 14 — 33
Niskayuna 6 12 22 21 — 61
Ballston Spa scoring: Zoller 4-1-9, Faizy 2-0-6, Blair 2-0-4, Haight 1-0-2, Verdile 4-0-12. Niskayuna scoring: Coleman 3-2-8, Giammattei 1-0-3, DeBritz 1-0-2, E. St. Lucia 4-1-10, S. St. Lucia 3-2-9, Eldaye 3-2-10, O’Brien 1-0-2, Camelo 2-0-3, Parker 5-1-11. Scoring totals: Ballston Spa 13-1-33, Niskayuna 23-8-61