The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys basketball team may have gotten a late start on its season, but the Spartans are running at full throttle now.
BH-BL (10-11) outscored top-seeded Lansingburgh 11-5 in overtime to pull out a 55-49 victory in Sunday’s Section II Class A championship game at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Not bad for a team that had to wait until the end of November to get all of its players on the court because of BH-BL’s run to the state finals in football.
They went out there and believed [they could win], said BH-BL coach George Dudas. `They got some critical [defensive] stops, and then they hit some critical shots at the other end.`
The key for the Spartans was getting Lansingburgh (17-4) to play at a slower tempo than the Knights were used to. BH-BL consistently got back quickly on defense to prevent Lansingburgh from having too many fast break opportunities, and the Spartans defended the Knights’ perimeter shooters well.
`We kept switching up defenses. That was one of the main things we did to keep them off balance,` said Dudas. `The other thing we did is weathered their storm. They came out strong in the first quarter, but once we settled down, we were able to dictate the tempo.`
Still, there was the matter of handling Lansingburgh’s big man down low ` 6-foot, 10-inch senior center Tyler Hammett. BH-BL relied on the athleticism of 6-5 forwards Zach Morton and Jacob Meyers to make life tough near the basket for Hammett, and though Hammett finished with 18 points, Morton and Meyers made him work for every point.
`Obviously, it was a little intimidating,` said Morton of defending Hammett. `But at practice, we worked on ways to get him off his feet.`
Meanwhile, Lansingburgh had no answers for Morton. The senior forward dipped, deked and drove his way to the basket for a game-high 29 points and the tournament’s most valuable player award.
`It’s just a testament to coach [Dudas],` said Morton. `We worked a lot on catching the ball in the high post and then working some jukes and some shot fakes to get close to the basket.`
Morton carried BH-BL through a difficult first half. Lansingburgh built a 12-4 first-quarter lead before Morton started hitting several shots in the low post to help the Spartans chip away at the deficit.
BH-BL grabbed the momentum just before halftime when Meyers hit a short jump shot at the buzzer to give his team a 25-24 lead. Brandon Beatty then sank a three-pointer and a long jump shot in the first minute of the second quarter to put the Spartans ahead 30-24.
Lansingburgh got its offense going for a brief time in the third quarter and took a 37-36 lead on a basket by Sajae Pryor, but Philip Neumann hit a free throw to tie the game at 37 at the end of the period. The Knights never led again, though they had several opportunities in the fourth quarter to grab the advantage as the Spartans’ offense struggled.
Once overtime came, BH-BL took command. Morton opened the period with a jump shot, and Keaton Flint followed with a three-pointer to put the Spartans ahead 49-44.
`It’s a huge spurt because all of the sudden you’ve got a sixth guy out there, and his name is Mo for momentum,` said Dudas.
BH-BL looks to ride that momentum into Friday’s regional semifinal against Section X champion Massena at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. The winner of that game meets defending state champion Jamesville-DeWitt Saturday night at HVCC.
`I think we’ve finally caught up to the other teams, and we’re playing well at the right time,` said Morton.“
Associate editor/sports editor