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