By Jordan J. Michael
GUILDERLAND –– The Dutchmen basketball team looked impressive during its home victory over Columbia last Friday, but, with most of the season left to play, the Dutch aren’t looking too far ahead.
With a modestly sized line-up and with one of its best players, Matt Cerutti, on the bench with no timetable for return, Guilderland will have to battle for every win this season. Against Columbia, the Dutch played with fire and urgency, propelling it to a 73-to-61 win.
Guilderland out-hustled Columbia while shooting 55 percent from the field. The passing was precise, and the Dutch went up and down the court with swiftness.
“Starting 1-0 is always good, especially at home,” said senior point guard Brian Crupi, who chipped in 14 points and 12 assists for Guilderland. He played with confidence all night. “This is a good win,” he said, “but we still have work to do.”
Guilderland also received a double-double from junior Mark DuMoulin, who scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The Dutch had five players score 10 points or more, including 11 from freshman Andrew Platek.
“They (Columbia’s players) were physical, but we really brought it to them,” said DuMoulin, who late in the fourth quarter teased the Red Sea with a lay- up on a break-away when the fans were expecting to see a dunk.
“We played harder than they did,” said DuMoulin after the game.
The Dutch were able to frequently penetrate the shooting lane for close buckets because the Blue Devils’ defense was extended. Guilderland has some outside shooters, so Columbia remained honest, which opened up opportunities down low.
Head Coach Ron Osinski told The Enterprise that Guilderland, at times, stood around during the game it lost to Saratoga in overtime. Against Columbia, the team was more fundamentally sound.
“We have to play hard every night, every possession, every minute, every second; we have to play hard,” said Osinski, cradling a basketball in his hands after the game in the locker room. “We needed to correct some mistakes on offense, and I think we did. We tend to stand around after we pass the ball, but, tonight, we competed the whole time.”
DuMoulin, new to the varsity team, began the game with some great inside moves, making three shots to help Guilderland build an early 11-to-3 lead. The Dutch had a 24-to-16 advantage after Crupi drove for a lay-up, beating the first quarter buzzer.
“We’re not the biggest team, so we have to do the small things better than everyone else,” DuMoulin said. “Tonight, we were diving on the floor, getting those loose balls.”
Junior Vincent Simeone gave Guilderland another buzzer beater at the end of the second quarter, putting the Dutch ahead, 39 to 31. The first half wasn’t flawless for the Dutch, but it was darn close.
Columbia was able to run with Guilderland, but having played two previous games may have given the Dutchmen an advantage. The Blue Devils didn’t play any earlier games.
“I’m happy with the win and how the kids competed,” Osinski said, “but we have to get better.”
Osinski isn’t the most optimistic of coaches because he’s a basketball realist. The Suburban Council is a treacherous league, and Guilderland still has many games to play. The Dutch hosted Bethlehem on Tuesday, losing, 61 to 58.
“Actually, I thought we missed some easy shots, and made some shots harder than they had to be,” said Osinski after beating Columbia. “Also, we gave up 60 points on defense, which is not too good.”
However, putting up 73 points in the first Suburban Council game is an excellent way to start the season. Columbia was no pushover.
“We have some good shooters, and we were knocking shots down,” said Crupi, who dazzled the Dutch fans with a nice finger-roll lay-up in the third quarter. “It was definitely a good night on offense.”
Crupi said that Guilderland’s game plan was to play harder than Columbia. “It’s about hustling on every play and getting up and down the floor,” he said.
Guilderland has eight new faces on its roster, and Crupi and Simeone are the only two with real-game experience from last season. Crupi has been with the Dutch for three years.
“Brian (Crupi) wants to win, and he’s the man now,” Osinski said. “He’s been here for a while, so he knows what we want. We have to have him on the court.”
“We have shooters, so I have to kick it out to them,” Crupi added.
Besides free throws and some careless turnovers, Guilderland’s main concern is the health of junior Matt Cerutti, who Osinski says is a “scholarship-like player.” Cerutti is recovering from a stress fracture in his pelvis, but the lingering pain isn’t allowing for a sensible timetable of return.
“I really don’t know when, or if, he’s coming back,” said Osinski of Cerutti, who looked solemn last Friday. “Supposedly, the stress fracture has healed, but there is scar tissue that is causing him pain, deep pain. He’s not just in pain playing basketball, he’s generally in pain.”
Cerutti’s injury is strange, and Osinski said that Cerutti sustained the damage in Guilderland’s playoff loss to Bishop Maginn last February. Cerutti tried to play AAU basketball during the offseason, but the pain was too much. He’s been down since April.
With Cerutti in the line-up, the Dutchmen would be even better, but that’s not in the current deck of cards.
“We have to try and survive without him,” Crupi said of Cerutti. “He said he mat be ready by January, but we have to picture it like he’s not coming back.’
With a wounded solider down, Platek stepped right in. He played very well for a freshman.
“He rebounds as well as anyone we have out there,” said Osinski of Platek. “He has some confidence, quickness, and a little size. After watching him over the summer, I felt like he could fit in with these guys if the guys could fit in with him.”
The Columbia win isn’t making Guilderland jump for joy because it’s so early in the season, but every win is big.
As time moves on, the Dutchmen will figure out where it falls in the Suburban Council. What works? What doesn’t?
“I don’t know where we can go, but I know that we need to work,’ said Osinski. “We have to be fundamentally sound to compete this year. If an opponent plays flawless, I think it’ll be tough for us, so we have to create.”