In the case of the Saugerties High girls’ varsity basketball team, that bit of bad luck manifested itself in a visit on Tuesday night from one of the league’s hottest teams, the Onteora Indians. The result, a 47-39 loss.
Onteora hit the Sawyers’ home court having won 70 percent of its games on the season, and in the first quarter played as though they bought into the hype, outscoring Saugerties 20-10. As the Sawyers boys’ team proved a few nights earlier in the same gym, getting doubled up in the first frame doesn’t necessarily mean the game is over. Indeed, the girls’ rebounded a little, and in spite of scoring just six points themselves, their defense suddenly tightened the screws and held the sharpshooting Indians to just four points.
Whatever momentum picking up two extra points gave the Sawyers, it was still crackling in the third quarter, when the team again outscored Onteora, this time by a more offense-friendly 15-10 margin. But the fourth quarter proved to be the ultimate difference-maker, and with the well running dry, the game was a loss.
The difference between the teams’ performances looks fairly cut and dry on paper, and even in a low-scoring affair like this, teamwork can still trump individual excellence. For Onteora, the wealth was evenly shared, with Rene Giuditta and Adrianna DeCicco each scoring 11 points, Addison Muller adding 10 and Julia Occhi pitching in with eight.
As has often been the case this season, the Sawyers’ best performance came from front line star Hayley Spoljaric, who scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The next leading scorer for the home squad was Nikki Voerg, who had nine, all from outside the –point arc. Anita Etheridge added six points, Taylor Lynch four and no other player scored more than two.
The loss dropped the Sawyers to 3-8 on the year, one which began with expectations shaped by an air of rebuilding. But there was also an element of hope, not just forged by the team’s indomitable spirit and heart, but also the simple fact that they made the postseason one year ago in spite of a shaky regular season record. The byzantine means by which teams earn a playoff berth is good news for the Sawyers, who could still find themselves in the mix and in a position to fire on all cylinders as they’ve done in varying degrees this year. But they’ll have to play well over the remainder of the regular season to make it happen.
The Sawyers have just three games remaining on their regular slate, beginning with a trip to Red Hook on Friday, February 3. The team’s mettle will be tested against the Raiders, who are not only living up to their reputation as a perennial powerhouse, but who are stinging after a tough loss to Spackenkill last week and may be itching to take it out on someone.
The good news is that the Sawyers will return home for the final two games of the season, playing against comparatively evenly matched teams. FDR comes to Saugerties on Tuesday, February 7, and the Sawyers close out the regular season on Friday, February 10 against Wallkill. With a bit of luck and a lot of guts, the team’s season won’t end that night.
Regardless of where this season ends for the Saugerties High boys’ varsity basketball team, their 94-90 home win over Spackenkill last week should rank among the highlights. The game featured overwhelming runs by both teams, an NBA-friendly final score and a result undecided until just before the final buzzer.
The game didn’t look to be a classic early on as the Sawyers came out sluggish in the first quarter. Spackenkill, on the other hand, was in their rhythm from the opening tip, racing out to a 22-12 lead. But the second quarter was a different story altogether. The Sawyers scored 37 points in eight minutes, including the first nine points to open the quarter. The difference, said senior Marc Whitaker, was attitude.
“We were playing selfish in the first quarter, but we started playing as a team in the second quarter, running the ball up the floor and getting open looks,” he said. But it wasn’t just about scoring, because the Sawyers also locked down its defense. Spartans point guard James Kruk, who looked like the best player on the court in the first quarter, suddenly found himself running into trouble with every drive to the hoop. He had his shots blocked and he came away frustrated, both in his sudden inability to run his game on offense and in a series of quick fouls on defense.
Because the game was bound to be a wild one, the Sawyers’ 15 point halftime lead all but evaporated over the course of the third quarter, as the home hands went cold again and Spackenkill went on another run. Heading into the final frame, the Sawyers held on to a slim 66-62 lead. If the game was wild up to that point, the fourth quarter took it to another level entirely.
The Sawyers and Spartans traded blows over the final eight minutes, an offensive explosion that saw each team score 28 points. Spackenkill’s Andrew Michos went on a stunning tear, hitting seemingly everything he put up on his way to a 28-point night, including eight 3-pointers.
But while the Spartans leaned heavily on one player down the stretch, the Sawyers shared the wealth throughout. They got acrobatic points from Dylan Hill and they got them in tough points in the paint from J.T. Elmendorf and Scott Melville. They got a clutch baseline trey from Drew McClain, who scored his only points late in the fourth when the team needed them the most. And they got them all game long from Marc Whitaker, who scored on the break and from the free throw line. It was the latter that proved most invaluable, as Whitaker hit four straight free throws to put the game away.
“It felt good,” he said.
Whitaker led the Sawyers with 28 points and six assists. Elmendorf (15 points, five rebounds), Hill (15 points), Melville (12 points), Paddy Defino (eight points), Aelijah Wilson (five points) and Brody Maloney (five points) all made significant contributions.
Though the Sawyers host Red Hook on Friday, February 3, the game against Spackenkill one week earlier was senior recognition night both for the players and cheerleaders. It was the first senior night win of coach Mike Tiano’s varsity career, and it came at just the right time. The Sawyers are trying to build their momentum as they roll toward the playoffs, and focusing on a very good Red Hook team for the final home game of the season is of the utmost importance. Saugerties also has three road games remaining on their regular season slate.
“We want to win our division,” said Elmendorf when asked where the team sees itself heading. “We want to win the sectionals.”
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