GUILDERLAND The Guilderland girls basketball team is making progress this season, even if it doesn't show in the result.
The Lady Dutch (6-7 league, 7-8 overall) couldn't overcome a double-digit second-half deficit in a 58-52 Suburban Council loss to Columbia Friday, but coach Frank Cacckello said he was happy with his team's fourth quarter rally.
"I thought we played outstanding," said Cacckello. "It was a tough and rugged game."
Trailing 44-34 going into the fourth quarter, Guilderland ramped up its offense and cut into Columbia's lead. However, the Blue Devils (9-4, 10-5) hit several free throws down the stretch to fend off the Lady Dutch.
"The difference was free throws. They went to the line 22 times, and we went nine," said Cacckello. "Ultimately, that was the difference. We let them go to the line way too much."
Selena Lott had 15 points, and Natasha Johnston contributed 13 points for Columbia, which sits in third place in the South Division behind Bethlehem and Averill Park. Zibby Eckhardt paced Guilderland with 20 points.
The loss to Columbia capped a difficult eight-day stretch for Guilderland -- one that began Jan. 24 with a 44-32 setback against Bethlehem (10-2, 12-2). The Lady Dutch sandwiched a 56-30 victory over Niskayuna (4-9, 4-11) between their two losses.
"That's the Suburban Council week. You always get these tough match-ups," said Cacckello. "I thought we played well defensively all three games."
The biggest improvement Cacckello said he's seen recently has been the way his players have moved the ball around on offense.
"Even though we've had limited practice time, our basketball IQ has been raised and our ability to share the ball has improved," said Cacckello. "I feel that we're playing our best basketball right now."
Guilderland has three games left in the regular season, beginning with Tuesday's game at Colonie (5-8, 6-9). Cacckello said he expects to see more improvement before the start of the Section II Class AA playoffs.
"We will be a very scary team come Sectional time, I will guarantee you that," said Cacckello.