Guilderland stands tough against Saratoga
GUILDERLAND — The main goal for the Guilderland girls’ basketball team last Friday was to inspire the young girls in the crowd. The way the Dutch fought to gain back the lead after losing it in the third quarter — holding on to win the game — was enough to encourage an entire audience.
Through and through, Guilderland’s 52-to-49 victory over Saratoga was exciting. The tempo never dropped.
“Tonight was a big night,” said sophomore point-guard Bayley Kralik, who scored nine points for the Dutch, and stole the ball three times in the first quarter.
“It was a much needed win,” ninth-grader Olivia Baumann added; she scored 12 points. Guilderland moved to 4-4 in the Suburban Council, and 5-5 overall.
On Tuesday, the Dutch lost to Shenendehowa, 65 to 44, on the road.
Last Friday was Guilderland Girls’ Basketball Club night, and Baumann said that having the young players in the stands really helped the mood. A GBC mini-game was played at halftime, and, during the varsity contest, the young girls adorably ran around the perimeter of the court with huge signs. Each sign lauded one of the varsity heroines.
Head Coach Frank Cacckello told The Enterprise that Guilderland played its best offensive game of the season. “They always played at the same level, and never faltered,” he said of the varsity players. “We never put our heads down.”
The Dutch built a lead in the first quarter, making an assortment of shots from the field. Kralik, Baumann, Rebecca Golderman, and Zibby Eckhardt all got in on the action, trading shots and assists.
Saratoga was able to erase Guilderland’s five-point lead in the second quarter, eventually going ahead by five points, only for the Dutch to tie the game, 26 to 26, heading into halftime. Cacckello said that the Blue Streaks were the first opponent to play the Dutch with one-on-one defense this season.
Baumann said that Guilderland can be an inconsistent team. “We go back and forth,” she said. “A lot of times, we don’t start the first half well, and then we make it up in the second half. Either way, we come out and play.”
The Dutch committed too many fouls during the game, and Cacckello said this was because the defense was having a tough time with the Saratoga players. “They were reaching, playing more with their hands than their feet,’ he said. “The zone helped us slow it down, but we always knew that the man to man would be effective.”
Saratoga was a physical team but, Kralik said, Guilderland has played more skilled teams. “Defense definitely won the game for us,” she said after the game. “Our offense was on, but we would have lost without our defense tonight.”
After Kralik was called for a foul in the fourth quarter, she got subbed out, and looked to be on the verge of crying on the bench. Cacckello says that Kralik puts a lot of pressure on herself; she’s a first-year point guard who plays almost the entire game, every game.
“Yeah, I was frustrated,” Kralik said. “I lost the ball, and fouled somebody. It was a negative play. I shook it off.”
The Blue Streaks went up by four points in the third quarter after Cacckello was given a technical foul for arguing a call. However, Caitlin Corbett scored on a post move for Guilderland, and Eckhardt made a lay-up in transition to tie the game at 34 to 34. From there, the Dutch were able to build a lead with excellent offensive play from Golderman, Kralik, and Baumann.
Guilderland had increased its lead to 10 in the fourth quarter, but some mistakes down the stretch almost cost the game. Saratoga missed three shots in a row before the buzzer sounded to end the game.
“There was a point where we were about to lose, or we were losing, but we didn’t let that get to us,” Kralik said. “Mentally, we’re tough. We don’t really fold or panic.”
Baumann and Kralik told The Enterprise that Coach Cacckello had been talking to the team about mental toughness lately, as well as how to handle pressure.
Through Cacckello’s eyes, mental toughness comes into play when Guilderland doesn’t do something that it was supposed to do. It’s how the team responds.
“It’s a combination of being smart and mentally tough,” said Cacckello. “We can dig deep and all that, but, honestly, it’s about making good basketball plays. It’s not necessarily toughness, it’s more of setting up in the triple threat.”
Guilderland came into last Friday’s contest averaging 39.7 points per game, so the team finished well above its typical output. The Dutch scored over 50 points in its previous game, too.
The defense has been strong all season, Baumann said.
Over the years, Cacckello has labeled Guilderland as better at offense or defense, but there’s more of a balance this season. “We’re good at both, not great at one or the other,” he said. “That’s why you get games like this.”
Heading down the stretch, Guilderland’s fate will be determined by putting four solid quarters together during a game. Last Friday, the Dutch were up, then down, then up, then down, again. Cacckello says that “one quarter” has cost Guilderland against the top teams, but he’s glad that the team hasn’t peaked yet.
Is putting four quarters together a difficult task?
“Yeah, but we didn’t even talk about winning tonight,” Cacckello said. “You can’t go cold shooting, you have to have good bench play, and you have to handle the other team when their backs are against the wall. You have to respond to the pressure of the opponents’ best game, and we’re learning how to do that.”