The Shenendehowa boys basketball team nearly blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Plainsmen held on for a 62-58 Suburban Council victory over Bethlehem Thursday in Clifton Park.
After taking a 60-45 lead with 5:33 left in the game, Shen (10-0 league, 10-1 overall) was held scoreless for nearly five minutes. That was enough for Bethlehem (8-2, 8-4) to claw its way back to within four points with 52 seconds left.
This year, we haven’t had to be a team that has had to come from behind very often, said Bethlehem coach A.G. Irons. `And I think we handled that well tonight. We never gave up.`
That was as close as Shen allowed Bethlehem to get. Jose Reyes made two of his four free throws in the final minute, and the Plainsmen prevented the Eagles from making another shot from the field to hang on for the win.
`We won against a very good team,` said Shen coach Tony Dzikas.
Shen gave itself a cushion to work with out of the gate. After Mike McLeer hit a three-pointer for Bethlehem to open the scoring, the Plainsmen went on a 22-8 run to vault ahead by double digits.
What allowed Shen to do that was its ability to drive to the basket through Bethlehem’s forest of tall forwards.
`We had to catch [their defenders] 12 to 15 feet away from the basket,` said Dzikas. `Posting up our forwards against their tall forwards would not have helped us at all.`
Bethlehem went on a 9-0 run early in the second quarter to cut Shen’s lead to 24-20. But as would be the case later on, the Eagles could get no closer than four points as the Plainsmen eventually pulled away to a 34-27 halftime lead.
Shen’s lead grew to as many as 15 points in the third quarter, thanks to key baskets by Reyes and Farshad Sarrafi-Nour. Only a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Casey McGraw helped Bethlehem stay within range.
Turnovers played a major role in Shen’s third quarter surge. The Plainsmen forced Bethlehem into coughing up the ball several times, which led to fast break opportunities.
`I think the defensive pressure they put on us in the full court took us out of our offensive rhythm a bit,` said Irons.
Reyes scored five straight points early in the fourth quarter to put Shen up 60-45 before Bethlehem made one last push with help from Sperber, Ryan Stempsey and Scott Clas. Sperber finished with a team-high 15 points, while Stempsey contributed 14 points and Clas added 11 points.
However, the night belonged to Reyes and the Plainsmen. The senior guard scored 21 points and dished out several assists. Sarrafi-Nour chipped in with 17 points, and Brandon Miller added 12 points.
Shen returns to action Saturday when it travels to Syracuse to play Corcoran in a non-league game.“
Associate editor/sports editor
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