BY MICHAEL KELLY
NISKAYUNA — They made things interesting for quite a while Friday on their Senior Night, but the Niskayuna Silver Warriors could not hand the Shenendehowa boys basketball team its first loss of the season.
Instead, the Plainsmen picked up an 87-56 Suburban Council victory on a night in which head coach Tony Dzikas’ squad did not have its ‘A’ game.
“But they had enough good moments,” said Dzikas of his team, which ended the game on a 21-2 run.
Niskayuna head coach Bryan Mattice — whose team lost earlier this season to the Plainsmen, 73-20 — said it showed how solid of a machine the Plainsmen are this season that they could pick up a 31-point win on a night where they did not fire on all cylinders. In fact, two days after falling to another undefeated Section II squad Green Tech — the defending Class AA state champion — Mattice had effusive praise for the Plainsmen.
“Shen is … the best team we’ve seen this season, without question,” Mattice said.
For a good chunk of the night, though, the Plainsmen (15-0, 17-0) could not put away the Silver Warriors (6-9, 6-12). Shenendehowa took a 14-point lead into halftime and had its lead out to 17 points late in the third quarter — but Niskayuna had itself within 11 heading into the final stanza.
“These guys, they hung with Shen for three quarters,” said Mattice. “Even after that, they stayed with it and kept going.”
But the Plainsmen just had too much for the Silver Warriors during the course of the game’s full 32 minutes. Shenendehowa started the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from junior forward Petar Bebic off a pass from junior guard Kevin Huerter — and, the combination worked in reverse on the Plainsmen’s next possession. Then, after a 3-pointer from Niskayuna senior guard Tim Doyle — who had 18 points on his Senior Night — Kevin Huerter again found Bebic for a 3-pointer.
The treys were just a couple of Bebic’s six for the night, as the junior poured in a game-high 25 points with his well-practiced shooting stroke.
“That’s why you work your tail off in the offseason,” said Dzikas. “Tonight was his reward, the fruit of his labor.”
Besides Bebic, Kevin Huerter collected 19 points and senior guard Thomas Huerter made 16 of 17 foul shots on his way to 18 points, while senior forward Brandon Fischer had 15.
Helping out Doyle were junior guard Tommy Kelly and senior forward Pat O’Brien, who each had seven points.
Playing in front of a raucous crowd, Dzikas gave credit to the Niskayuna team and faithful after his club’s victory.
“It was an emotional night and [Niskayuna] came out to play,” said Dzikas. “Their crowd was tremendous. For us, it was awesome to play in this environment.”