Six days made a world of difference.
Kevin Stempsey scored 31 points, and Bethlehem's defense forced numerous Niskayuna turnovers in a 58-43 Suburban Council boys basketball victory last Friday.
The game was a far cry from the first time the two teams met at the Niskayuna Invitational Dec. 2, when Niskayuna won a defensive struggle 48-45 to take third place at its own tournament.
We shot 34 percent from the floor last week, and we shot 52 percent tonight, said Bethlehem coach Jeremy Klugman. "That was the difference."
Niskayuna's offense never found a comfortable groove against Bethlehem's full-court press in the rematch. When the Silver Warriors (0-2 league, 1-3 overall) weren't turning the ball over, they were heaving up shots in traffic that didn't fall.
"I think they did a much better job on the defensive end pressuring our guards, and our guys didn't take care of the ball," said Niskayuna coach Mike Black.
Stempsey had no such problems at the offensive end. The senior guard drained five three-pointers and drove through Niskayuna's defense for layups to lead Bethlehem's offense.
"He's a great player," Black said of Stempsey. "Once he gets going, he's a handful."
Stempsey received some much-needed help from his teammates. Gleason Judd contributed a season-high nine points, and Dan Lanchantin added six points for the Eagles (1-1, 1-3).
"Our shot selection has been mediocre so far to say the least, so our effort tonight was much better," said Klugman.
Will Burkey scored 11 points, and Alex Olbrych contributed nine points for Niskayuna, which is recovering from the graduation of most of last year's team.
"I'm pleased with our effort," said Black. "It's a process for us. We've just got to get better and better each night, and with the exception of tonight, I've felt we've done that."
Bethlehem traveled to undefeated Shenendehowa for a Suburban Council game Tuesday, while Niskayuna hosted Averill Park.""