Red Raiders take open­ing ri­valry game over Still­wa­ter, 53-48

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - [email protected] @StanHudy on Twit­ter

By Stan Hudy

STILL­WA­TER, N.Y. >> There is no bet­ter way to kick off the start to a sea­son than with a win over your clos­est ri­val. That is if you win. The Me­chan­icville boys bas­ket­ball squad ex­or­cised the demons from last year’s last sec­ond over­time loss to ri­val Still­wa­ter, tak­ing this year’s open­ing two-chap­ter ri­valry games with a come from be­hind 53-48 win on the road Fri­day night.

“I think we had six threes in the first half and we’re still down four be­cause we were care­less with the bas­ket­ball and we tried do­ing too many things that aren’t our strengths,” Me­chan­icville Coach Ryan Richard­son said. “Half­time we set­tled down, they set­tled down and then we started mov­ing the ball much bet­ter in the sec­ond half and started get­ting bet­ter looks.

“We wanted to get the ball side a lit­tle bit. We were stay­ing out­side the perime­ter too much in the first half, sec­ond half. Our goal was to get it in­side get some ball move­ment in­side; I thought that was kind of ef­fec­tive for us.”

Knot­ted at 40 points each through three quar­ters Still­wa­ter built a three­p­oint edge on a free throw from Brian McNeil and a pair from Josh Luca be­fore the Red Raiders cut it to one on se­nior An­thony

Atalla’s bucket along the base­line. He would strike again with just over five min­utes left.

The War­riors knot­ted the game on-last time, at 46 apiece on a James Galarneau three-pointer from atop the key with 4:41 left, but Still­wa­ter then had its own is­sues with turnovers and shot-mak­ing de­ci­sions.

Three sep­a­rate trips down the court proved un­suc­cess­ful and Red Raider se­nior Tyler Dion hit a shot in the lane and on the next trip down was fouled on his way to the bucket only to hit both ends of a one-an­done and give Me­chan­icville the 50-46 lead.

The four points were too much as the War­riors failed to get a qual­ity shot off with un­der 30 sec­onds left and then stepped out of bounds af­ter se­cur­ing the re­bound.

“I thought late we had op­por­tu­ni­ties and we got the balls into the right peo­ple,” Still­wa­ter coach Bruce Li­lac said. “We turned it over, we’ve missed a cou­ple easy bun­nies, we trav­eled late in the game when we came out of a time out, ran a play. If we score there it could be a dif­fer­ent game.”

For the Red Raiders a 2-0 start is im­por­tant, but eras­ing the bit­ter mem­ory from last year was also a pri­or­ity.

“Our team has worked so hard in prac­tice the past month and last year we came here, played them, and we lost in OT off a buzzer beater,” An­thony

Atalla said. “That hasn’t been lost in any of our minds and we were able to come out here tonight, give it our all and get re­venge on them.”

Atalla fin­ished with a team-high 16 points with Gar­land drop­ping in 14, in­clud­ing four three-point­ers for the Red Raiders.

Atalla kept his in­ten­sity fo­cused within him­self and his craft.

“He’s been a great role model for our whole pro­gram from CYO all the way up here,” Richard­son said. “I can’t speak highly enough of them.

“He’s very soft spo­ken, some­times I get mad cause I want to see more energy and more ex­cite­ment out of him, but that’s not who he is. He stays within him­self and he stays within his game.

“He plays to his strengths and he’s so well liked by ev­ery­body on our team. Ev­ery­body’s re­ally will­ing to go to bat­tle with him and that’s why we came out on top tonight.”

De­spite the 0-3 start for Still­wa­ter the squad had bright spots through­out the con­test, as point guard Brian McNeil scored a team-high 13 points and Isaac Cut­ler added 11, all off the bench in the fi­nal three quar­ters.

“We’ve had so many in­juries, dif­fer­ent things in the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, in­clud­ing him­self be­ing hurt that we de­cided we were go­ing to bring Isaac off the bench as a lit­tle bit of a spark cause he’s a tal­ented player,” Li­lac said. “He came off in the first half and did great.

“We wanted to bring Isaac and with some size and a thought, he played great. I think we fa­tigued a lit­tle bit down the stretch and I think that hurt us.”

For both squads there will be plenty to di­gest be­fore the next prac­tice and Wasaren League tilt.

“Come sec­tional time they want to see wins, losses, so games in De­cem­ber are just as im­por­tant as the games in Fe­bru­ary,” Richard­son said. “When you come up here to our ri­val, you know, the crowd was into it, it was a lot of fun to walk out with a win.

STAN HUDY/THE SARATOGIAN

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Still­wa­ter’s Ja­cob Zecca leap­ing over Me­chan­icville’s Kyle John­son af­ter the point guard stopped abruptly in the lane and fell back­wards in an at­tempt to get his shot off dur­ing Fri­day’s Wasaren League ri­valry con­test at Still­wa­ter High School.

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