Running Rams hit century mark in win on Senior Night

Senior Night for the Amsterdam High School Running Rams varsity basketball team had a little bit of everything. The home team scored over 100 points and had more than 50 rebounds, acrobatic cheerleaders with competitive spirit, a slam dunk, and even a play called ‘turkey soup’. Amsterdam defeated Hudson Falls 102-61 Tuesday night marking the final appearance on the AHS gym court for Anferny Aponte, Andrew Druziak, Jemal Robinson, Hector Rodriguez, James Valentin, and Marcus Pritchard.

“It’s the most bittersweet feeling ever,” Pritchard said. “I always dreamed of playing on this court. My teammates and I left a legacy here.”

Pritchard contributed 10 rebounds and added three monster blocks to the excitement on a night when the six AHS senior Rams played all of the first half, and five minutes into the third. They returned in the fourth quarter, and then one by one came out of the game to a round of applause from the AHS faithful.

“Everyone contributed,” Pritchard continued. “We hit one hundred points, there was a dunk, it was just a magical night. Everyone came out to support us.”

The game was never in doubt for Amsterdam. Hector Rodriguez started it with a free throw before Hudson Falls junior sharpshooter Taylor Lane connected for three shots from behind the arc helping the Tigers to a 9-5 lead. It would be their last. The Rams senior squad went on a 14-0 run late in the first quarter taking the lead for good. AHS outscored Hudson Falls 27-11 in the opening period led by Druziak’s nine points and four assists. Aponte drilled a pair of triples and put an exclamation point on the quarter with a steal and a drive to the rim in the closing seconds. Druziak led the Rams with 23 points and countless assists.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing with all the seniors,” Druziak said. We have been together since middle school.”

Both Druziak and Pritchard listed winning a tournament in Syracuse with their travel team as their favorite basketball memory.

“It felt good playing together one last time,” Druziak continued. “Everyone contributed. We played our fast style. We were hoping for one hundred points.”

Rodriguez started the second quarter the same way he started the game, with a free throw. It kick started another 14-0 run by the Rams with points coming from Aponte, Robinson, and Druziak. After a three by Tigers’ Owen Ovitt stopped the run, Robinson and Valentin each scored on put backs as the Rams dominated on the boards. Amsterdam led 52-18 at halftime and for the game out-rebounded Hudson Falls 56-20.

“We did a lot to get those rebounds,” Amsterdam head coach Tony Orapello said. “We had a lot of possessions and we out-rebounded them.”:

The AHS seniors came out to start the third quarter and Rodriguez opened the scoring for the Rams the same way he had opened the first two with a shot from the line. Rodriguez took an assist from Druziak and soared toward the basket for his last points of the night putting Amsterdam up 60 -26. Moments later, Rams junior Ben Rhodes stepped on the court and it took it one step higher slamming the ball through the hoop to the delight of the crowd. The torch had been passed.

“They are my class,” Coach Orapello said. “I’ve known them a long time. I’m their advisor. They’ve been with me four years. This is a tight group of kids with a family atmosphere. They are a good group of kids, who are very easy to work with. They are not selfish and do what I ask them to do.”

Amsterdam entered the fourth quarter leading 69-36. Rhodes, Keenan Holloway, Kory Bergh, Gehrig Garner, Dale Stanavich all scored as the Rams inched closer to 100 points. Rodriguez, Robinson, Valentin, and Pritchard all took a final bow and only Druziak remained on the court. The Rams starting point guard connected on three straight three point shots putting the Rams up 96-52. Druziak benefited from a play he and his teammates learned back in AAU basketball. One they dubbed, ‘turkey soup’.

“We used a play we learned in AAU called ‘turkey soup’,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a kick out for three to Andrew Druziak.”

Druziak took a final bow after his last three and the torch was passed again. Rhodes connected for another three with just over a minute to play. Lane picked up three more of his team high 18 points for Hudson Falls making the score 99-59 as the seconds faded away on a memorable night. The crowd, eyes fixed on the court, waited in anticipation to see if the home team could hit the century mark. The wait wasn’t a long one. Kory Bergh’s deep three point attempt on Amsterdam’s next trip down the floor found the bottom of the net with a ‘swish’. A fitting end to a memorable night and regular season.

“This was a nice way to get ready for the crossover game,” Coach Orapello said. “The seniors played well and had fun. Everyone got a chance to play and we honored the seniors one by one. I’m happy for them and I’m proud of them. They work hard. Hopefully we will keep it moving.”

Amsterdam (14-4 overall, 11-2 Foothills) will play at Schuylerville on Thursday night in a Foothills Council match up of second place teams. The Rams defeated the Black Horses 76-50 on February 3rd at Amsterdam High School. Eleven Rams put up points in that game. Ten got in the scoring column on Tuesday.

Robinson had 17 points and 11 rebounds behind Druziak’s 23 points that included four triples.. Aponte scored 15 points, Rhodes had 11 points, Bergh, Garner and Holloway each had six, Valentin collected four points and six rebounds, Dale Stanavich added two points, and Rodriguez ended his night with 12 points and seven rebounds.

“Everyone here is family,” Rodriguez said. This is a great atmosphere to play in. It’s fun. The community is good to us.”

Rodriguez and his teammates were honored in a pre-game ceremony along with six senior AHS cheerleaders: Nashaly Borges, Carissa Bottisti, Kacie McGillin, Audreanna Oliveira, Sha’mel McCallop, and captain Ashley Santana. Among the favorite memories listed by the this year’s cheerleader graduates was winning first place at competition when they were freshman. Cheerleading has been recognized as a competitive sport in high schools across the country. The Rams cheerleading squad performed at halftime displaying skills that one day could win titles.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.