By Jordan J. Michael
GUILDERLAND –– So far, the Guilderland girls’ basketball season has fluctuated between wins and losses. The 7-7 team is looking for consistency.
In the first 10 games, the Dutch followed each win with a loss until a defeat at Colonie broke the cycle after being hammered by Averill Park in the previous contest. Then, Guilderland won two straight games –– over Saratoga and Burnt Hills –– only to lose to Columbia at home on Tuesday.
The 48-to-43 defeat to the Columbia Blue Devils was significant, dropping Guilderland (6-6) into a tie with Columbia (also 6-6) in the Suburban Council South standings. Tuesday’s loss put a constraint on the Dutch’s fight for a fourth seed in the upcoming Class AA sectionals.
Three of Guilderland’s four remaining regular-season games are against opponents ahead in the standings –– Bethlehem, Averill Park, and Colonie have each beaten the Dutch by double digits this year.
Last Friday, after a 49-to-38 victory over Burnt Hills, senior Emily Sischo, who scored 14 points for Guilderland, emphasized the Dutch’s need to build on its two-game winning streak. Instead, Guilderland dismantled against Columbia.
Dutch Head Coach Frank Cacckello said on Wednesday that Columbia is of equal talent to his team. “There’s no excuses, but it was a weird game,” he said of the loss to Columbia. “We didn’t have any real time to practice leading up to the game, so we came out flat.”
A lack of energy and spark was a concern for Cacckello after Friday’s win over Burnt Hills, too. However, the offense executed very well during that win, scoring a season high of 49 points.
“January is a long month,” said Cacckello on Wednesday, “in days and in games.”
Guilderland made only 17 of 32 free throws last Friday, but followed up by making 14 of 16 free throws on Tuesday. The Dutch had a one-point lead over the Blue Devils at halftime, but a strong third quarter by Columbia led to Guilderland’s loss.
The Dutch are trying to work on putting games away. Guilderland pushed the lead to 12 points over Burnt Hills in the second half on two separate occasions, but the lead didn’t increase. The Dutch won by 11 points.
“We have our sparks when we really want to play,” said junior Shannon Mackesey last Friday. She is the ember of Guilderland’s team. “I can tell when we’re not really up for it,” she said. “But, a win is a win.”
Guilderland came into the game against Burnt Hills averaging 35.5 points per game. The offense has kicked it up a notch since then.
“We were a lot more offensive minded tonight,” Sischo said on Friday. “A lot of times, we don’t look to shoot as much as we did tonight. It’s really good, though, because that helps us win.”
The offense runs through Mackesey. Burnt Hills’ defenders couldn’t guard her because she was so quick, handling the ball like a true point-guard. Mackesey scored 17 points against Columbia.
“Honestly, the ball is in Shannon’s hand, and she knows what we’re thinking,” Cacckello said last Friday. “She knows what we’re trying to do. We have every bit of confidence that she’ll put us in position. Tonight, she was very offensive minded.”
Cacckello said that Mackesey played like the best kid on the court against Burnt Hills. He believes that she thought the same thing.
“I mean, I definitely played like I was the best, so I guess I was?” Mackesey said, tilting her voice into a question. “But, it was the team that made me look so good. It’s not just me. Everything was spaced out so I could drive.”
Guilderland has settled into a comfortable roster rotation that includes eighth-grader Olivia Bauman, who scored four points last Friday and six points on Tuesday. At one point on Friday, the Dutch had Bauman, a junior, and three sophomores on the court.
“Think about that,” Cacckello said.
Coach Cacckello recently found out that Bauman has a competitive edge. He hasn’t seen that in an eighth-grader before.
“She’s very cerebral when it comes to basketball,” Cacckello said. “She goes out and makes things happen as part of our rotation, and her minutes have been increasing. She beyond her years.”
On Jan. 11, Averill Park came into Guilderland and left with a 30-point win. After that, the season turned around, said Sischo. The Dutch focused as a team, slowing everything down in practice and working hard.
“We understood how the game could be played after the blow-out,” Cacckello said. “They just manhandled us on defense, and that really woke us up. They embarrassed us.”
Guilderland responded in the next game against Colonie, still losing, but battling nonetheless.
“They got the message,” said Cacckello of his team. “That’s a lesson we’ll never, ever have to learn again.”
The Suburban Council is a physical league.
“It was at home, so we thought we could take them,” Mackesey said of Averill Park. “We weren’t ready, and it was a rude awakening.”
Guilderland wants a decent seed in the Class AA playoffs so it can host a sectional game. That’s something that hasn’t happened too often over the years.
“We have to knock a big team off for that signature win,” Cacckello said. “We have it in us if we keep improving. We’ll have our hands full, but we’ll be fine.”