BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — Developing a well-rounded offense is going to be the season-long challenge for the Niskayuna girls’ basketball team in its 2016-17 campaign.
“In order to win games, we need five girls on the court producing,” Niskayuna head coach Sarah Neely said. “We can’t rely on just one person.”
That showed through the Silver Warriors’ first two games of the season, non-conference matchups against Amsterdam and Queensbury. Niskayuna, which finished 7-14 last season and started Suburban Council play Dec. 6, lost to Amsterdam and won against Queensbury. Between those two games, star junior center Olivia Owens — a national-level college recruit — scored 42 of her team’s 79 total points.
“She’s obviously a huge part of our team, but everybody we come across is going to focus on her,” Neely said. “We need to be able to take some pressure off her.”
And, while it will be a work in progress to do that, Neely said she’s confident her roster this season is one capable of finding multiple scorers. There’s height on the roster besides the 6-foot-4 Owens, and this year’s edition of the Silver Warriors is one that should be able to play at a faster pace than in recent years.
“They have great personalities. They work well together and are very coachable. I’ve been having a lot of fun with this group and we can do a lot of different things,” Neely said. “They all have their strengths, but in the beginning of the season we do have to take a look at what they do in the games.”
To get a jump on that last part, Neely scheduled games against Amsterdam and Queensbury of the Foothills Council before Suburban Council play starts. Last year, Niskayuna’s first game came in league action, and junior guard Ali Greco said it was helpful for the Silver Warriors to get a chance to play some non-conference games before heading into league play this time around.
“It’s cool to see how other leagues play and that helps prepare us for the Suburban Council, too,” Greco said.
Through the offseason and early part of the season, Owens said she’s liked the progress the Silver Warriors have made.
“We have a great group of girls,” she said. “A lot of people have to step up, but how we’ve performed in summer league and in our scrimmages, I thought we’ve done really well.”
Some early-season league wins would help boost confidence, but the Silver Warriors think they have what it takes this season to post a stronger season in the Suburban Council.
“That’s what we’re pushing for,” Owens said.