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SARATOGA COUNTY: Shen, 'Toga advance

The top two teams in the Suburban Council Blue Division will represent the league in Friday's Section II, Class AA semifinals.

Division champion Saratoga pulled away from Troy with a 10-2 third quarter on its was to a 61-52 quarterfinal victory Sunday at Albany's TU Center, while Shenendehowa advanced with a 63-57 win against LaSalle.

It's the first time in several years that either Saratoga or Shen has made it to the semifinal round, and both teams are grateful for the opportunity.

Our coach said we deserved it, and it's true, said Shen guard Mike Hammond. "We worked hard all year long, and it paid off."

"It's not often that you see two Suburban Council teams get to where we're at, but we don't want to stop there," said Saratoga senior guard Garrett Bishop.

Saratoga and Shen had to deal with pesky Big 10 teams that wouldn't go away without a fight. Troy's guards played well in support of 7-foot, 2-inch center Jameson Keefe to stay with Saratoga through the first half, while LaSalle made several runs at Shen before bowing out.

"Troy really gave us everything we could handle," said Saratoga coach Mitch Snyder. "Their big guy (Keefe) gave us fits in the first half."

"They (LaSalle) weren't going to go away," said Shen coach Tony Dzikas.

Saratoga (18-4) threatened to run Troy off the floor early on, as the Blue Streaks scored the first six points. But the Flying Horses (12-10) got the ball in Keefe's hands, and the senior responded by scoring his team's first eight points to pull Troy within a point. Sophomore center Jordan Stevens hit several clutch baskets late in the first quarter to give Saratoga a little breathing room with a 22-14 lead.

Troy stayed with Saratoga through the second quarter, but a pair of three-pointers and two free throws from Bishop helped the Blue Streaks hold on for a 38-35 halftime lead. The Flying Horses cut the deficit to one point several times in the third quarter before Saratoga's 10-2 run gave the Blue Streaks a 50-41 advantage. Troy never got that close again.

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