GLENS FALLS — His team is the top seed in the Section II Class AA boys’ basketball tournament.
But Shenendehowa senior Lucas Seyoum, fresh off the Plainsmen’s 66-49 semifinal win against Niskayuna, didn’t have to think long about whether his team will feel like it’s the underdog Saturday when it plays in the area championship game against second-seeded Green Tech.
“Yes, probably,” Seyoum said.
A second later, with a smile: “Most definitely, actually.”
Shenendehowa cruised into its latest championship-game appearance with a wire-to-wire win against the Silver Warriors Tuesday at Cool Insuring Arena, but this trip to the final is a bit different than recent ones for head coach Tony Dzikas’ program. Even he admits he’s a bit surprised his squad keeps winning one game after another, and it’s with good reason.
“We’ve got nine juniors, one sophomore and two seniors,” Dzikas said.
That youthful group, though, finished its Suburban Council season without a loss.
“People don’t give that as much credit as they should,” Dzikas said.
“People think we should be here, but it’s a lot of work — a lot of unseen work — and dedication that goes into being a championship team,” Shenendehowa junior Andrew Martin said.
Shenendehowa (No. 1, 20-2) earned its way past Niskayuna (No. 5, 15-8) with a dominant defensive performance. The Plainsmen held Niskayuna without a made field goal until early in the second quarter, and maintained a double-digit lead for nearly all of a fourth quarter that saw their lead grow as large as 21 points. Senior Jake Reinisch led Shenendehowa with 16 points, while six other Plainsmen scored between six and nine points.
Shenendehowa had at least a three-possession lead throughout the second half after taking a 24-16 lead into halftime, and displayed the trait throughout the night that Dzikas said makes this season’s squad a special one.
“Just their constant focus, as a team,” Dzikas said. “Not two or three guys. Every kid.”
For Niskayuna, senior Ethan St. Lucia had 15 points and sophomore Gabe Eldaye added 11. With first-year head coach Mike Grasso at the helm, Niskayuna outdid external expectations this season, and the coach expects his program to grow from its appearance in this year’s semifinals.
“The expectation level has been set, and it’s not going to drop from there,” Grasso said. “Our seniors have done a tremendous job of setting the bar for our program moving forward.”
Later, he added: “In the moment, right now, it’s very tough to think about that because we were here and I know we were good enough. Any of the four teams that were here could have won the section.”
Green Tech (No. 2, 15-5) advanced past Colonie (No. 6, 15-8) with a 55-42 victory in the night’s first Class AA game. Senior Justin Owens scored 16 points to lead Green Tech, while junior Marcus Shelton had a game-high 18 in defeat.
Green Tech and Shenendehowa met in the 2016 championship game in a matchup that pitted the previous two state champions. The Plainsmen defended their area title that year, and won again in 2018 to give Dzikas his third Section II championship since taking over the Shenendehowa program in 2005.
This year, the coach said his group needs to be nearly perfect against Green Tech in order to claim another area title.
“Let’s go with size. Let’s go with speed. Let’s go with length,” Dzikas said of what challenges Green Tech presents his team. “It’s going to be a multitude of things that we’re going to have to figure out a game plan to combat against when we play Green Tech on Saturday.”
But that’s for the days ahead to figure out. After Tuesday night’s game offered some time to celebrate a bit for a group whose motivation for working so hard is something Dzikas admires, and credits for its success.
“There’s simply one reason, one reason only,” Dzikas said, “[and it’s] because they’re such a close-knit crew that they want to continue playing basketball as a team with each other for as long as they possibly can.”
GREEN TECH 55, COLONIE 42
Colonie 7 8 16 11 — 42
Green Tech 9 9 17 20 — 55
Colonie scoring: Pharr 0-1-1, Wright 2-0-4, Appleton 0-2-2, Coyle 4-1-12, Shelton 6-6-18, Scott 2-1-5. Green Tech scoring: Benjamin 4-2-10, Rodriguez 2-4-8, Hyman 1-0-2, Thorpe 2-0-4, Walton 4-2-10, Owens 6-4-16, Johnson 1-3-5. Scoring totals: Colonie 14-11-42, Green Tech 20-15-55.
SHENENDEHOWA 66, NISKAYUNA 49
Niskayuna 2 14 15 18 — 49
Shenendehowa 8 16 16 26 — 66
Niskayuna scoring: Coleman 1-0-2, Giammattei 0-2-2, E. St. Lucia 5-2-15, S. St. Lucia 1-5-8, Allen 1-0-3, Eldaye 3-4-11, Parker 4-0-8. Shenendehowa scoring: Martin 4-0-9, Lavery 1-4-6, Spiak 1-3-6, Seyoum 3-2-9, McLea 1-0-3, Morgan 1-0-2, Dzikas 1-3-6, Courtney 3-0-6, Reinisch 5-4-16, Shea 1-0-3. Scoring totals: Niskayuna 15-13-49, Shenendehowa 21-16-66.