Bison use defense to win
LATHAM Shaker missed nine free throws in the first half and made just one outside shot during that stretch in Saturday night’s Suburban Council game against Shenendehowa.
The Blue Bison, though, still managed to open up an 11-point lead.
“Defense was the determining thing,” Shaker coach Jeff Holmes said after a 67-45 homecourt victory. “We weren’t real sharp on offense. We had some moments, but I was very pleased with our defense.”
Shaker never let Shenendehowa get in a groove, grinded for points in the first half, found its outside touch in the second half and wrapped up its second straight North Division championship by downing the Plainmen in a game nothing like the first meeting between the schools.
“This was a great team win,” said Shaker senior guard Zach Yakel. “We couldn’t have done it without everyone stepping up on defense. We boxed out and got out on their shooters.”
Shaker (13-2, 15-2) held Shenendehowa (11-4, 11-6) to seven first-quarter points, and in the third period played shutout basketball for over five minutes as its advantage grew to 46-24.
“That says we’re playing hard-nosed defense and getting after it,” said Shaker senior center David Morrison, who had team highs with four steals, three blocked shots and eight rebounds. “This shows us what kind of team we can be.”
Shaker was a team on the ropes after Shenendehowa got hot from the field and erased a 19-point deficit in the first meeting last month. Yakel scored all five of his points in a late 10-4 run that night which helped Shaker recover for a 65-61 win.
“The first time we played them, we allowed them to drive and kick the ball out, which is what they like to do, and they got back in the game,” said Holmes. “We did a better job of keeping their dribblers in front of us and closing out on their shooters.”
Shenendehowa’s best run came at the beginning of the second quarter, when two free throws by Jake Hicks, his steal and layup, and a layup by Brandon Fischer got the visitors within 18-13.
“We knew coming into this game that Shenendehowa is a team that likes to put up a lot of shots, and they like to take the three,” said Morrison. “We had to be sharp.”
Shaker collected nine of its 12 steals in the tone-setting first half, with Morrison getting three of them, and Chris Landers and Yakel both picking up two.
“Coach had us going all week,” said Yakel, after Shaker’s fifth consecutive win. “We couldn’t wait to play this game.”
Shaker took control of the game with a 12-0 spurt in the third quarter that made it 46-24. Yakel and Andrew Holmes both nailed three-point baskets in the spurt, and Yakel dropped in three more long-distance bombs in the final quarter.
“Zach is the kind of guy who can get on a roll,” said Holmes.
Yakel and Malik Dare led the Blue Bison with 13 points apiece, Holmes had 10, Morrison finished with nine and Landers added eight. Dare and Landers notched six points each in the first quarter, and Holmes’ three-pointer with a second left made it 18-7.
Shaker ended the second quarter with a 12-6 push that included five points from Morrison. A three from Kevin Huerter and a layup by Fischer had Shenendehowa within 10 before Shaker went on its 12-0 third-quarter run in which Dare netted four points inside after handling superb passes from Haseeb Kaurejo and Landers.
“I’m not saying we’re not capable, but to beat them by this score, I wouldn’t have predicted it,” said Holmes. “We’ve had a difficult time with them in the past.”
Shenendehowa’s Dylan Molloy scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to go with four assists. Hicks had nine points and four steals, and Fischer scored eight points as part of the Plainsmen’s second-lowest output this season.
The Shaker girls beat Shenendehowa earlier Saturday, 60-39.
Proceeds from the games (over $7,000) will be donated to the families of Bailey Wind of Shaker and Matt Hardy of Shenendehowa, two students who were injured in a December automobile accident. Proceeds (over $22,000) from the Jan. 10 basketball fest at Siena College involving the schools benefited the memorial scholarships set up for Hardy’s schoolmates, Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, who lost their lives in the accident. Stewart (69), an all-state football player, and Rivers (19), a standout softball player, had their jersey numbers retired that evening.
Fischer 4-0-8, Hicks 3-3-9, K. Huerter 2-0-6, Molloy 6-4-19, Serapilio 1-0-2, Zlogar 0-1-1. Totals: 16-8-45.
Carmello 2-0-5, Dare 6-1-13, Gorman 2-0-5, Hoffman 1-0-2, Holmes 4-0-10, Kaurejo 1-0-2, Landers 3-2-8, Morrison 2-5-9, Yakel 4-1-13. Totals: 25-9-67.
Shenendehowa 7 12 10 16 — 45
Shaker 18 12 16 21 — 67
Three-point goals: K. Huerter 2, Molloy 3, Carmello, Gorman, Holmes 2, Yakel 4.