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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 9, 2010

Blackbirds drop season-opener to Watervliet

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– The last time the Blackbirds’ basketball team played Watervliet, it was for a share of the Colonial Council title. In a home game against the Cannoneers last Friday, little was on the line and even fewer shots were dropping for Voorheesville.

Despite shooting 32 percent from the floor in its first game of the season, Voorheesville found itself only down by one, 36 to 35, at the start of the fourth quarter against Watervliet.

The Cannoneers found its stride in the last eight minutes and Deronte Gleason scored 15 of his 23 points to lead the defending Colonial Council champions to a 59-to-48 win on the road. The Birds struggled to find a rhythm all evening in front of an unusually quiet home crowd.

“Usually, the first game doesn’t have a whole lot of intensity,” said Voorheesville Head Coach Don Catellier after the loss. “It’s a feeling out process and our opponent already had two games. I felt like we did all right.”

In the fourth quarter, Gleason went off –– driving the lane, hitting some jumpers, and playing aggressive basketball. The Voorheesville fans fell silent after every basket dropped.

“We got it going towards the end and Deronte really carried it,” Watervliet Head Coach Walter Bowden said. “It’s a quality win on the road, so we’re happy with that.”

Both teams in the first half had awful shooting from the floor. Voorheesville made seven of 26 for 27 percent and the Cannoneers weren’t much better. Watervliet had a 24- to-20 lead at halftime, quite a low score.

“We had some mental problems tonight, like turnovers,” said Mike Noland, who is one of three players for the Birds who got considerable time last season. “If we can stay on a run, then we’re hard to stop.”

There were no extended runs for Voorheesville on Friday, especially with a shooting percentage of 32 percent. However, the team did drain six three-pointers and looked promising inside on post ups in the paint.

“We had our chances, but some inexperience showed up,” Catellier said. “We have a lot of new players this year and they’re working on the basics and trying to gel together as a team.”

Senior Colin McVee hit a three-pointer for the Blackbirds to start the second half off right, and soon enough the team had a 28-to-27 lead after senior Joe Keenan made a three of his own. Senior Dylan Best made a pull-up jumper and Kyle Russell drained a three to maintain Voorheesville’s lead, 30 to 29.

But, after that, Gleason and the Cannoneers got going and built a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter. Gleason got help from Dan Nittinger, who scored 16 points. Watervliet missed 19 free throws in the game; otherwise, the game would have been out of hand.

“We were in this until they started scoring at will,” said Russ Daly, who put up 15 points to lead the Birds in scoring. “I know we lost, but I think we have some positive things to build on.”

Voorheesville’s four starters and leading scorers from last season –– Ethan Mackey, Nick Crawford, Chris Castren, and Conor Cashin –– all graduated. Mackey was a tall force down low, but Catellier said that the team’s first look is still inside.

“It’s a higher percentage shot,” Catellier said of looking to the post for points. “Noland should arise as a force inside. This is a good group of athletes that we have, but we need some more experience.”

Voorheesville’s next game is tomorrow on the road against Fonda, a team from the Western Athletic Conference.

“The players will keep working on their shooting and their focus,” said Catellier. “This season is a marathon, not a sprint.”

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