By Jordan J. Michael
GUILDERLAND –– Finding shooting space against Schenectady’s 3-2 zone defense turned out to be easier than Guilderland initially thought coming into Tuesday’s first-round Class AA match up. By the time the third quarter rolled around, the Dutch were slicing, dicing, and having its way on offense.
Guilderland was able to sink seven three-pointers during the 65-to-55 home win, and, if the three bucket weren’t available, Dutch players would drive up the middle for a silky two-pointer.
The Dutch moved the basketball quickly and efficiently. Guilderland had to deal with Schenectady’s 6 feet, 7 inch stand-out, Darius Macon, but the Dutch were able to maneuver around him for most of the evening.
“Basically, we knew some middle space would open up, so we attacked,” said Marc DuMoulin, who scored 15 points for Guilderland while dealing with Macon, who also scored 15. “We knew he could block shots and jump high, so we had to play physical with him and box him out.”
Guilderland played with intensity, but was also controlled and confident in its demeanor. A three-pointer by Connor Burg at the beginning of the fourth quarter and another three by freshman Andrew Platek towards the end of regulation play sealed the win for the Dutch.
“I think we did what we wanted,” said Platek. His game-high 17 points was impressive for such a young player on such a large stage. “Our defense could have been better,” he said. “Giving them 55 points is a gift.”
Guilderland Head Coach Ron Osinski was a little wary of what his team could do against the 3-2 zone, but space opened up, and the Dutch capitalized on opportunities both near and far. Macon was a threat to block shots, but Osinski didn’t want his players to be afraid.
“I told the kids to take it to him and to adjust after every time,” Osinski said. “I’ve played and coached against the 3-2 many times, and it is difficult.”
The Dutchmen seemed to handle the task rather nicely. Senior Brian Crupi was Guilderland’s floor general, manipulating the defense, and scoring 15 points while assisting others. Vincent Simeone, who scored 10 points, was also good off the dribble.
“We play well together,” Crupi said of Guilderland’s teamwork. “Anyone who steps onto the floor for us can shoot and score, and we share the ball so well. It doesn’t matter who scores, as long as we win the game.”
Having a variety of scorers can spell trouble for opponents because there is no focal point.
“It’s hard to guard everyone on the court,” Osinski said. “I’ve said this before, but we have to come out and play hard, fast, and do that better than the other team.”
With Schenectady’s Big Ten athletic status, Osinski thought Guilderland had to work doubly as hard. “We had to be quick,” he said. “We took care of the ball and watched for traps, and handled the press pretty well.”
The Patriots had more size, but weren’t as fast as the Dutch.
“We did really well for a team that was smaller,” DuMoulin said. “We hustled for every scrap and every rebound.”
Guilderland made more plays than Schenectady when it counted. The Dutch closed the third quarter on an 8-to-3 run: DuMoulin made a crazy finger roll lay-up, Crupi faked a pass only to pull up for a jumper, then followed that with a break-away lay-up, then DuMoulin stole the ball and finished off the glass at the other end.
“It’s fun to play teams that you don’t usually play,” Crupi said. “You get a different look.”
Come playoff time, the top Big Ten teams usually outlast the top Suburban Council foes in Class AA. This year, the gap may have tightened up. Earlier in the season, Schenectady almost beat first-seed Christian Brothers Academy, which Guilderland faces next.
“I think anybody can beat anybody else,” said Osinski. “We beat Shaker, but couldn’t beat Shenendehowa or Bethlehem. I don’t know. It might be a game of match-ups.”
Bethlehem beat Christian Brothers Academy, which is Guilderland’s quarterfinal opponent on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Hudson Valley Community College. The Brothers are the first seed out of the Big Ten.
“We have to believe that we can beat them,” DuMoulin said. “It’s whoever works harder. They could take us lightly, who knows? We can compete.”
Osinski said that intense play early in the regular season led Guilderland to some important victories. The players knew that junior Matt Cerutti, one of their most consistent scorers, would miss the season. The Dutch filled the void with scoring from all angles.
“Five, six, or seven kids can score for us on any night,” Osinski said. “That ends up adding up in points. They know that they need to be intense to be able to win. That helped us in the beginning and it’s helping us now.”
Guilderland is ripped, excited, and ready to play. The team has realized its formula.
“I think our kids have some confidence,” said Osinski, “and they’ll carry that into the next game.”