Running Rams stage comeback, claim south division title on Senior Night

Friday’s Senior Night game between the Amsterdam Running Rams varsity boys basketball team and the Schuylerville Black Horses turned out to be a wake-up call for the home team. Amsterdam battled back from a 14 point deficit at halftime led by 28 points from senior captain Anthony Aponte, and in the end got six clutch free throws from senior Robbie Spagnola to turn back the Black Horses 73-67 at Amsterdam High School.

The Running Rams trailed throughout much of the game and were down 65-62 with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter after Schuylervile’s Justin Carte made a ten foot jumper over a pair of Rams defenders. Amsterdam hustled down court on its next possession and Aponte’s initial shot came of the rim, but was rescued by senior Dale Stanavich, who passed back out to Aponte, and the captain’s next shot found the bottom of the net to tie the game with one minute and 47 seconds left to play. The Black Horses called time out, but the result they were looking for on their next play instead turned out to be a result that would turn the tide in the Rams favor.

Schuylerville worked the ball around the perimeter of the AHS defense looking for a chance to get inside to the rim. Black Horses senior guard Stratton Sherman eventually put up a shot from beyond the arc, but the attempt careened off the front of the rim and into the hands of Spagnola who burst down court and was fouled attempting to give AHS the lead. Spagnola made good on a try with 1:18 left as he buried both free throws putting the Rams up 67-65. However, the Rams forward wasn’t done, and on the following Schuylerville trip he hustled for a loose ball forcing a turnover, and gave Aponte a chance to put AHS by four, 69-65, as the clock ticked down to less than a minute to play. It was the Rams biggest lead of the game, and the final points of the AHS captain’s game high total.

“I knew I had to go out and do something big,” Aponte said. “We played a lot harder than we expected we would have to. We came together in the locker room at halftime and then went out and did what we needed to do. I was confident I could knock down the big shots.”

Confidence turned out to be a theme for the night, and a quality the Rams definitely needed to have. Schuylerville played better than a three-win team, and continued to put up a fight. Black Horses sophomore guard Nick Budesheim netted a pair of foul shots with 27.2 seconds left cutting the lead to two, and reminded the Rams they were still in the game. Schuylerville then fouled Spagnola on the next AHS possession and he calmly netted two more.

“I felt confident,” Spagnola said. “I knew I would make it. [AHS coach Tim Jones] said that we shoot a thousand of them during the season, what’s one more.”

Spagnola drained two more free throws after AHS took control of the ball on Schuylervilles’ next try when Stanavich gathered in a miss by Stratton as the clock counted down to less than ten seconds to play, and Amsterdam wrapped up its first outright Foothills Council South division title.

“He ended it the right way,” Amsterdam coach Tim Jones said on Spagnola’s key free throws. “That was all them. We had confidence in our guys taking the shots.”

That confidence will serve them well as the Rams now prepare for another rematch with Glens Falls on Monday as the Rams try for their first Foothills Council title. Glens Falls won each of the previous two meetings this season. Amsterdam had earned the South division crown by virtue of their better division record than Scotia-Glenville when they defeated Broadalbin-Perth on Wednesday, but the Rams had to fight for it on Friday if they wanted the title to be theirs outright. Amsterdam trailed 40-26 at halftime as Schuylerville’s Stratton Sherman scored 14 of his team high 18 in the first half. Sherman’s totals were complimented by eight points from Luke Saddlemire, all in the first quarter when the Black Horses built a 21-12 lead, and eight of Carte’s 14 points in the first half.

“Coach (AHS coach Tm Jones) was fired up at halftime,” Spagnola said. “We were down fourteen and we weren’t playing our best, but in the second half we came out fired up. We wanted to go out on top.”

Spagnola along with Aponte, Stanavich, Devon Valentin, and Jah’leel Muhammed represented the AHS seniors who were introduced along with senior cheerleaders Isabel Gonzalez, Alexis Tirado, Chase Walton, and Denise Grimon in a pre game ceremony, and honored with their parents on senior night. All five seniors started the game and scored in the first half. Muhammed scored on a rebound of his own shot to give AHS a 4-2 lead in the early minutes of the game. Valentin scored on a lay up off a steal in the first quarter to put get the Rams to within one at 9-8. However, the Rams would not get that close again until the closing minutes of the third quarter.

Amsterdam came out of the locker room and scored the first seven points of the second half on baskets by Aponte, William Brown and Louis Fedullo, slicing the margin to 40-33. After a jump shot by Carte ended one run, the Rams were off on another as Apointe connected for his first of two triples in the quarter, and Fedullo scored on an assist by Stanavich. Amsterdam cut the lead to 42-40, but had some trouble from the charity stripe early as they made only two of eight foul shots through the first three quarters. Carte and Paul Harshbarger kept Schuylerville in front until Aponte’s last two of his 14 points in the quarter gave AHS a 52-51 lead with 33.3 seconds left in the third. Nick Budeshem’s spin move to the basket resulted in a tree point play and a 54-52 Black Horses lead to end the third. Brown’s three pointer from the top of the key gave the lead back to the Rams on their first try to open the fourth and the two teams were separated by no more than three points until the closing minutes of the game.

“They understand it was on them,” Amsterdam coach Tim Jones said of his team. “We didn’t play our basketball in the first half. Give Schuylerville credit, they did what they needed to do. We need to play better.”

Aponte added 11 rebounds to his game high 28 points for a ‘double-double’. Spagnola finished with 18 points, and Brown added 12 for Amsterdam (11-2 Foothills Council). Stanavich scored five points with six rebounds, Louis Fedullo added four points and five rebounds, Muhammed, Valentin, and Trey Holloway each scored two points in the winning cause. Ozzie Dejesus and Tristan Green each added one rebound for AHS.

Harshbarger’s 12 points followed Sherman’s and Carte’s efforts for Schuylerville (3-10 Foothills Council). Budesheim was next with nine points, followed by Saddlemire’s eight. Jonathan King scored four points, and Carson Dunkel added two for the Black Horses. Tyler Lavadiere came away with four rebounds, and Thomas Cappelletti added two boards in the strong effort by Schuylerville.

The Amsterdam boys and girls varsity team will play a double header against the team from Glens Falls with Foothills Council titles on the line. The games are scheduled for Monday at the Glens Falls Civic Center with the girls tipping off at 5:30pm, and the boys following at a scheduled 7pm tip time. A winter storm may impact the games, and make up dates and times are yet to be announced.

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.