By Jordan J. Michael
GUILDERLAND –– Now, in the middle of a three-game winning streak, the Dutchmen basketball players are realizing that they can’t ever let down if they want to be true contenders in the tumultuous Suburban Council. After ending Shaker’s unbeaten season on the road last Friday, Guilderland pulled away from Ballston Spa on Tuesday.
The Dutch are nine points away from being undefeated in the league. The team has been in every game. Guilderland’s roster is young, but it has figured out how to win close games.
With starting center Marc DuMoulin on the bench because of foul trouble at the beginning of Tuesday’s fourth quarter, and up by two points, Guilderland ran off 24 points to put a cap on its 67-to-52 win over Ballston Spa. Connor Burg made a three-pointer, Andrew Platek sank a jumper off a screen, and the Dutch couldn’t be stopped.
Meanwhile, the Scotties’ shooting went cold at the flip of a switch.
“We didn’t want a letdown after such a big win,” said junior Vincent Simeone, who scored 20 points for Guilderland. Two consecutive smooth, quick baskets by Simeone put the Dutch ahead by 12 points. “We wanted to play hard all day,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best.”
Before Tuesday’s game, Ballston Spa (2-5) had beaten Shenendehowa (5-1) on the road, something Guilderland (5-2) had failed to accomplish. The Scotties had shooters, like Andre Edgerton, who scored 23 points on Tuesday, making nine of 10 shots.
When DuMoulin took a seat on the bench in the third quarter, Guilderland switched its man-to-man defense to a zone defense, which disrupted the tempo of the game. Doron Tucker was trying to take the Dutch off the dribble, but that gave Guilderland a better match-up on the inside.
“I think a lot of our players have a good basketball IQ,” said Guilderland Head Coach Ron Osinski. “That’s helped us.”
Freshman Andrew Platek has been a pleasant addition to the Dutchmen this season. As Guilderland’s second tallest player, he’s third on the team in scoring. On Tuesday, Platek scored 15 points, including three three-pointers. He was on the scouting report, but Ballston Spa left him wide open.
“I thought they would cover me, but they weren’t getting out on me,” said Platek, who can make opponents’ pay if he’s unmarked. “If I’m left open, I’ll make it,” he said.
Osinski said that Platek was accepted by his Guilderland teammates from day one. “His overall play is not freshman-like,” the coach said. “Sometimes, I forget he’s a freshman. I have to remind myself, but I also have to remind him that he’s on varsity when he starts to act a little silly. He’s 14 years old.”
Platek could develop into a tremendous player for Guilderland. Most freshmen are skinny, but, at 170 pounds, he’s quite solid.
“I don’t feel like a freshman on this team,” said Platek, who got more open looks than normal on Tuesday. “I’m just another player, playing with my teammates and winning games.”
“He’s not a secret anymore,” Osinski added. “They know he can shoot.”
Guilderland led Ballston Spa by eight points in the second quarter, but the Dutch couldn’t drag the lead any further. The Scotties hung tough, and were able to tie the game at 37 to 37 in the third quarter. After that, Platek buried a three-pointer as the Red Sea chanted, “He’s a freshman!”
The Dutchmen had a seven-point lead going into the fourth quarter against Shaker. Again, the fourth quarter was important for Guilderland on Tuesday.
“Any given night…if we didn’t play well in the fourth quarter, then we lose the game,” Osinski said. “We haven’t died when going behind this season. We have persevered and gutted it out.”
DuMoulin, who scored 12 points and got nine rebounds on Tuesday, also had foul trouble against Shaker. Both times, Nick Bruni came into the game and held his own, Osinski said. Guilderland has been able to rely on its bench players this season.
“They produce when we need them,” Simeone said. “Everyone on this team plays together.”
Burg, who started on Tuesday, made a huge three-pointer against Shaker late in the game. He also had three blocks and some rebounds. On Tuesday, Ralph Simeone, Vincent’s younger brother, made a big three-pointer.
“Early in the season, the bench was playing well, then it came down a little bit, but then we worked at it some more over break,” said Osinski. “We share the ball pretty well, making a lot of passes. No one really scores 20 points.”
Guilderland was riding an enormous wave of confidence after upsetting Shaker. Osinski pictures Bethlehem and Shaker as the big guns in the Suburban Council, followed by Shenendehowa. He says that everyone else is fighting for the next position.
Shenendehowa beat Bethlehem by three points last Friday. There’s a sense of equality in the Suburban Council.
“It depends on how your team comes out,” Osinski said. “It’s a game of match-ups, really. Anybody can beat anybody else.”
The Guilderland players understand that they have to play hard all of the time to survive.
“We play the scouting report,” said Osinski. “We’re trying to scout other teams’ weaknesses, and, hopefully, their strengths don’t beat us.”
The Dutchmen travel to Averill Park on Friday, and then host Colonie and Saratoga. Practically every game could be won or lost.
“It depends on how we play,” Osinski concluded. “We have to play hard for 32 minutes to keep this thing going. We can’t let down. The kids understand that now.”