Tuesday night’s game at Amsterdam High School had all the makings of a major headline sports event. Two outstanding teams, a capacity crowd, three game officials, and plenty of media and news cameras were there for the entire game, focused on Glens Falls junior guard Joe Girard III’s pursuit of the all-time state scoring record. Caught up in all the drama was a high school basketball game, one that found the Amsterdam Running Rams putting in a strong effort, but ending up on the short end of a 74-69 score as the two teams battled for first place in the Foothills Council.
“My biggest concern was all the hoopla and how the team would handle it,” Amsterdam coach Tim Jones said. “This is high school basketball.”
Girard III came into the game averaging better than 50 points per game, and only 38 points shy of the all time state scoring record of 2,946 points set by Abraham Lincoln High School (Brooklyn, NY) standout Lance Stephenson from 2004-2009. Stephenson currently plays for the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Indiana Pacers. The Running Rams played as well as any team could against one of the game’s most prolific scorers, holding Girard III to his season low 44 points, and came within two minutes of keeping him from setting the record on their home court. But, with 1:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the outcome of the game still to be determined, needing only one for the record Girard III took the ball strong to the rim. The shot didn’t fall through, but a whistle blew and Girard III headed to the free throw line. The crowd erupted as the first attempt drifted into the net giving him the all time New York State high school boys basketball scoring record.
“It was kind of a unique way of doing it on a free throw,” Girard III said. “I’ve had all the confidence in the world after scoring 31 as an eighth grader in my first varsity game. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. Now, I’m going to focus on the playoffs and get the team ready for sectionals.”
The game was stopped for a few moments after Girard converted his second free throw to allow the team to congratulate Girard III, and to allow the news media time to gather potential front page images. But afterward, there was still plenty of basketball to be played. Trailing 66-60 after Girard III’s free throws, a pair of Amsterdam misses from the foul line allowed Glens Falls to move swiftly down court where Girard III delivered a three point shot putting Glens Falls up by nine with just over a minute to play. Willie Brown made a pair of free throws cutting it back to seven, but that was the only time the Running Rams converted on both foul shot attempts within the last two minutes of the game. Amsterdam went five for ten from the charity stripe in the closing minutes, and that was a decisive factor.
“We were right there,” Coach Jones said. “We just didn’t hit our free throws and execute offensively late in the game.”
Overall, the Running Rams were 14 for 28 from the free throw line. A better effort was needed to contend with a Glens Falls team that found ways to score close to the rim, and hit for six three point attempts. Amsterdam trailed 34- 30 at the break, but clawed their way back in, in the second half.
The Running Rams tried to take the momentum away from Glens Falls early in the third quarter. AHS sophomore Ozzie DeJesus scored the first six points of the period and gave Amsterdam the lead at 36-34 with a put back after rimming a dunk attempt. The lead however, was short lived. Girard III converted on back to back lay ups giving Glens Falls the lead for good at 38-36. Amsterdam stayed within striking distance closing the gap to four twice on DeJesus scores. Glens Falls’ guard Trenton Girard hit a three point shot at the buzzer to end the third boosting the Glens Falls lead to 48-41 heading to the fourth.
Amsterdam continued to battle with DeJesus answering Glens Falls with a pair of baskets to keep the home team within five points of the lead. DeJesus led the Running Rams with 30 points. AHS senior Willie Brown scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter eventually slicing the lead to 70-65 on a long distance three with 47.4 seconds to play. But, in the end it came down to execution, and Glens Falls did it better Tuesday night.
“Our game plan was there,” Coach Jones said. “We needed to hit our free throws and execute better down the stretch.”
DeJesus added ten rebounds to give him a “double- double.”. Louis Fedullo also had an impressive night on the boards hauling in 16 rebounds to lead everyone on the court. Fedullo earned his own “double-double” scoring 12 points in a solid effort by the AHS senior. DeanAnthony Colon added seven points, and Jeffrey Brennan scored five points including a buzzer beating three point shot in the fourth quarter for Amsterdam (12-4, 11- 3 Foothills Council).
Trenton Girard’s nine points were second best behind his cousin’s big night. Nick Danahay put in eight points, David Barclay added five points and gathered a team high 13 rebounds, Quentin Girard scored four points including two free throws in the closing seconds, and Noah Balcom, and Justin Holness added two points each for Glens Falls (14-3, 12- 2 Foothills Council).
The Glens Falls victory gives them the advantage over Amsterdam should both teams finish with identical records in the Foothills Council and a tie breaker is needed to decide the league champion. The Running Rams still have four games remaining on their Foothills Council schedule beginning with Friday’s contest at Hudson Falls.
“We have a game at Hudson Falls on Friday, and then at Scotia- Glenville on Tuesday,” Coach Jones said. “Then we have senior night against Queensbury the next Tuesday, so there’s a lot of basketball to be played yet. We’re preparing for sectionals, and we’re going in to be the best that we can be. The record was just that it happened on this night.”
Authors Notes; More than just the record, there were two outstanding high school basketball teams on the court at Amsterdam High School on Tuesday night. That seems to get lost when perhaps the biggest of all individual records is broken. But, the night was more than that. It was a game to decide first place in the league, and it was a true sign of sportsmanship by the players, fans, and the sports community in general. There were no confrontations, no incidents, and the schools should be commended for making certain that the game and the atmosphere surrounding it were safe and enjoyable. The cameras may have missed the game, but the fans did not. The Amsterdam teams are playing well and as a community we can be excited about both the Running Rams and Lady Rams basketball programs.