Amsterdam senior Anthony Aponte scored 25 points, all in the second half, and the Amsterdam Running Rams boys varsity basketball team ended a two game losing streak with a win over the Hudson Falls Tigers 71-68 on Wednesday night at Amsterdam High School.
After not playing in the first half, Aponte was among the starting five on the floor for the Rams in the third quarter. Amsterdam trailed 34-19 at the break, but Aponte scored 16 of his team high total in the third period to fuel the comeback win.
“He’s a captain and a leader,” Amsterdam coach Tim Jones said of Aponte. “He knows what he needs to do.”
Hudson Falls’ Riley Maddison opened the scoring in the second half with a jump shot giving the Tigers their biggest lead at 36-19, but the Rams ripped off the next eight points thanks in large part to an opportunistic defense that appeared to take a page out of the Lady Rams play book; tips and deflections.
A steal by Robie Spagnola at mid-court led to a lay up by Louis Fedullo, followed shortly by a steal by Dale Stanavich and a basket by Aponte for his first points of the game. Aponte benefited from a steal by William Brown moments later helping AHS cut the deficit to nine at 36-27 with less than three minutes gone in the period. Maddison broke the streak with a lay up, but the Rams quickly started another one when Spagnola started it just as he had with the first one, with a pair of free throws. Aponte put back a miss on the next trip down the floor narrowing the gap to 38-31, and after a Tigers turnover, the AHS senior netted the first of three long distance three point shots. Another steal by Spagnola cut the lead to four at 38-34. Maddison stopped an AHS run again with a three of his own, but the Rams continued to answer Hudson Falls shot for shot and trailed by only five, 50- 45 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We talked about getting deflections and wanted to get out in transition and be opportunistic,” Coach Jones said. “In the first half we were a step behind as a unit. We knew we had to be better and in the second half it was more of can we get five guys on the floor playing consistently.”
More things went Amsterdam’s way in the fourth quarter. Aponte continued his fine play with a jump shot cutting the lead to three, and after a pair of Hudson Falls free throw misses Brown connected from three point range to tie the score at 50-50. It didn’t stay that way for long and when Stanavich drove to the rim for two more at the six minute mark of the fourth quarter, Amsterdam had its first lead since the opening minute of the game. Maddison knotted thing up at 52-52 and the Tigers would draw even only twice more thanks to the play of Cameron Jett, who led all scorers with a game high 32 points. Aponte’s last three point make of the game gave the Rams the lead for good at 60-57.
“I see a lot more coming off the bench,” said Aponte. “I had to bring energy, lead them, and have fun. I knew what I had to do and went out and did it.”
Even after using much of the second half to surge in front, Amsterdam wasn’t out of danger and needed a block and a key defensive rebound by Brown to help preserve the win. A steal by Jett cut the AHS advantage to one at 60-59, but a three by Spagnola pushed it back to four. Clutch free throws late in the game by Aponte, Trey Holloway, and Stanavich helped Amsterdam stay a step ahead so that a three point shot by Jett at the buzzer still had the Tigers down by three 71-68, and Amsterdam celebrated a much needed win.
“We spread the ball out a little more in the second half,” Aponte said. “We were more comfortable.”
“We needed to challenge ourselves,” Coach Jones said.
One of those challenges was dealing with Hudson Falls guard Cameron Jett, who simply had everything his way in the first half scoring 19 of his game leading total. Jett hit a pair of triples early in the first quarter as the Tigers surged ahead 22-13 after one period. When not converting on drives to the rim, Jett made good from the foul line helping Hudson Falls stay in front by fifteen. A three point shot by Connor Hermanson at the bell put Hudson Falls up 34-19 heading into the locker rooms. Jett was held to only two points in the third quarter, and 13 in the second half thanks in part to the play of Aponte.
“I knew I had to put pressure on him (Jett) and guard him close,” Aponte said. “I had to get him off his rhythm.”
Amsterdam was bolstered by the varsity debut of Ozzie DeJesus, who scored five points and brought down seven rebounds. DeJesus was effective on both ends of the floor and came away with both offensive and defensive rebounds at key moments of the game.
“It’s a day by day process with him,” Coach Jones said of DeJesus. “This is the next step in challenges for him.”
Spagnola followed Aponte on the Amsterdam scoring chart with 17 points and six rebounds. Stanavich scored 11 points, Holloway contributed six points and five rebounds, Brown had five points and seven rebounds, and Fedullo helped the AHS cause with two points and nine rebounds.
Hudson Falls was led by Jett with 32 points and a pair of rebounds. Riley Maddison was next with 16 points and two boards, Connor Hermanson added 10 points and five rebounds, Brady Hayes had six points and five rebounds, and Sean Casey and Trevor Hill helped the Tigers cause with two points each. Despite the loss, the Tigers put up a much better effort than a December 30, 2016 match up with the Rams at the Glens Falls Civic Center where Amsterdam won by more than 30 points.
“Give Amsterdam credit, they hit the right spots and made it hard for us,” Hudson Falls coach John Galarneau said. “Our kids played with heart. The shots just didn’t fall the same way. This is definitely a better result than a week and a half ago.”
Amsterdam will have a short break before their next game against the Bulldogs of South Glens Falls. Tip time for Friday’s varsity contest is scheduled for 7:30pm.