By Jordan J. Michael
NISKAYUNA –– In three wins so far this season, the Guilderland girls’ basketball team has held its opponent to a low score. Last Thursday, solid defense turned into some simple offense for the Dutch.
The first quarter was a little rough around the edges, but, eventually, Guilderland got into a rhythm. Sunshine Edwards made a jumper at the halftime buzzer to give Guilderland the lead, and the Dutch never trailed again.
In the fourth quarter, junior point guard Shannon Mackesey made a sensational pass to Guilderland teammate Olivia Baumann, an eighth-grader, who calmly put in a lay-up for a 35-to-24 lead. Mackesey drew the Silver Warriors’ defense, and then fired the ball to the wide-open Baumann.
The Dutch had made a few long, excellent passes prior to Mackesey’s wonderful move. Guilderland’s offense was benefiting from the team effort on the defensive side.
“We practice the fast-break stuff,” said Mackesey, who scored a game-high 12 points. She has really good vision as Guilderland’s point guard. “Today, we definitely played as a team,” she said. “We looked for each other. The past couple of games, we didn’t really look for each other as much.”
Guilderland followed a 41-to-34 home loss to Shenendehowa with a 45-to-34 win on the road last Thursday. The Dutch are 3-2, and traveled to Elmira for a tournament on Wednesday.
“Defensively, we’ve been solid all season,” Head Coach Frank Cacckello said after the Dutch beat Niskayuna. “We’ve pretty much held every opponent to its lowest score.”
Guilderland held Columbia to 23 points and Mohonasen to 22 points. Cacckello said that the team has a goal of holding opponents to six points per quarter. Niskayuna scored 16 first-quarter points, and led the Dutch by seven.
The Silver Warriors scored only four points in the second quarter, as well as the third quarter.
“We’re a defensive team,” said sophomore Zibby Eckhardt, who scored 11 points for the Dutch.
“We really like to build offense off our defensive stops,” added senior Katelyn Kaczkowski, who scored five points.
Guilderland doesn’t put up a lot of scoring numbers; 45 against Niskayuna was the most by the team this season. The defensive exertion may be taking away from some of the offense.
“We’re OK with low scoring games, but, if we have to score with you, then we can,” Cacckello said. “It disappoints me sometimes because I know we can put more balls in the basket. We can shoot the three, get the ball inside, and drive the lane. We’re not one-dimensional.”
Last Thursday marked the third game in a row Guilderland had come out slow, Cacckello said. During the stretch, the team has changed starting line-ups, press, and other strategies to try and defuse the problem.
“I thought that we were a little fatigued,” said Cacckello. “Sometimes, we pinned ourselves down too far, so we weren’t in a great position to rebound. Niskayuna pinned us so low.”
Guilderland defended shots, but Niskayuna grabbed tons of offensive rebounds. However, the Silver Warriors shot 14 of 53.
The Dutch tried the full-court press against the Silver Warriors in the first quarter, but it didn’t work well. Then, Guilderland got into foul trouble. Back-up point guard, Jody Madsen, was injured, so Mackenzie Lozano came into the game.
“Mackenzie did a great job settling us down,” Cacckello said. “We had to adjust, but we played the zone pretty well. We have to protect ourselves in that situation.”
Guilderland can go 10 players deep. Eckhardt filled some of Madsen’s time, and played very well. Cacckello knows his players will respond when called on.
“These girls have a lot of fight and a lot of belief,” said Cacckello. “Chemistry goes a long way, but so does basketball talent and IQ. By the script, some of these girls would be playing junior-varsity, but they’re on varsity for a reason.”
Mackesey was proud that Guilderland came back to win during a tough road game.
“We got ourselves together and started focusing,” she said. “We pulled through.”
Cacckello pondered the Shenendehowa game. Guilderland was up by two points with two minutes to go after trailing by 12 earlier in the contest. The Dutch lost, 41 to 34.
“We know that Shen stole one from us,” he said. “We haven’t been able to say that in a long time.”