By MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Senior guard Thomas Huerter said the Shenendehowa boys basketball squad did not waste time glancing up at the scoreboard Friday night. Instead, the squad used all of its energy to take the visiting Niskayuna Silver Warriors apart, piece by piece, in a 73-20 Suburban Council victory.
“We clearly knew we were doing well because we had a couple nice runs,” said Huerter, who finished with a game-high 20 points and six rebounds. “But Coach (Tony Dzikas) always tells us not to worry about the score.”
That was particularly easy to do Friday, as there was never anything to worry about for the Plainsmen. Dzikas’ squad scored the contest’s first 14 points on its way to building a 42-4 halftime lead and Niskayuna never got closer than 38 points in the second half, a half which began with a 7-0 run for Shenendehowa.
“They came out with a lot of energy,” Dzikas said of his Plainsmen. “That’s all we ever ask of them, to give 100 percent for all four quarters.”
Junior guard Kevin Huerter collected 12 points, five rebounds and five assists for Shenendehowa (10-0, 8-0), which also received 14 points from junior forward Petar Bebic.
Most of the Plainsmen’s offense came via their defense, as Shenendehowa forced Niskayuna (2-8, 2-6) into 12 turnovers in the first half, most of which came in the Plainsmen’s 21-2 first quarter.
“The first quarter was probably the best defense we’ve played all season,” Dzikas said.
“We just played our defense,” said Bebic, as the Plainsmen used a 1-2-1-1 full-court press and a 3-2 half-court defense to stymie Niskayuna.
The Silver Warriors played without junior guard Tommy Kelly — he injured his hand in Tuesday’s loss to Averill Park — and Niskayuna struggled to cope against the Plainsmen’s defense without him.
“That’s always tough to make up for when your point guard is out, so they had some costly turnovers,” said Dzikas. “Our press was a little more effective because of them missing the Kelly kid.”
“We did a good job of getting our hands on balls, getting deflections, and then getting out in transition,” said Thomas Huerter, who took care of the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Kevin Huerter in the first half.
While the Huerter brothers provided the flash for the night — Kevin Huerter also had a dunk in the opening half — it was the pair’s defense, along with the rest of the Shenendehowa guards, which caught Niskayuna’s attention.
“Their length,” was what Silver Warriors senior forward Pat O’Brien said stuck out about the Plainsmen. “The Huerter brothers are so tall up top (of their zone) and they’ve got such long arms.”
Niskayuna head coach Bryan Mattice said the night’s early onslaught from Shenendehowa was too much for his team Friday; between the first half and the first several minutes of the second half, Shenendehowa put together runs of 14-0, 20-0, and 15-0.
After those three long runs, Mattice said it became difficult for his squad to focus on trying to chip away.
“You don’t see the trees, you see the forest,” said Mattice. “And, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, how are we going to get through this?’”
Senior forward Anthony Fragnoli finished with eight points to lead Niskayuna, which finished the contest with 19 turnovers.
What stuck out about Friday for the Plainsmen, Bebic said, was seeing guys like Thomas Huerter and senior forward Brandon Fischer — who scored all eight of his points in the first half — hitting the floor for loose balls, even as the Plainsmen’s lead continued to mount.
“When our best players … are diving on the floor like that, it makes the game a lot of fun,” Bebic said.
“We had multiple guys diving on the floor,” said Dzikas. “When we have that kind of energy, we can be tough.”
NOTES: In all, 11 Plainsmen scored. … Niskayuna has now lost eight consecutive games. … Shenendehowa has held each of its last three opponents to 28 or fewer points.