By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- After a series of crossover dribbles earned him enough space, Amsterdam Running Rams senior Luis Laboy lofted in a deep jumper to pull his club within five points against the Troy Flying Horses after the first possession of Friday night's third quarter.
Up to that point, the Rams had nearly matched the powerful Horses and their 6-foot-9 star Javion Ogunyemi punch for punch in the Big 10 contest.
But the rest of the third quarter was unkind to Amsterdam, as the Horses used a post-halftime spurt to gallop past the Rams, 80-49.
After praising his team's first-half performance, Amsterdam head coach Tony Orapello did not mince words about his club's effort in the third quarter, a stanza in which the Rams were outscored by 17.
"Third quarter, we didn't do well," he said.
In the quarter, Ogunyemi had six of his game-high 25 points, which he collected while grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking six shots.
"He was hard to play against," said Amsterdam's Marcus Pritchard, who had four points and four rebounds. "But I love playing against guys like that. I love the challenge."
Meanwhile, Troy's Dyaire Holt had eight of his 18 points in the fateful third quarter, while Isaiah Dobere had six of his 20.
For the first 16 minutes of action, though, the Rams (2-6, 2-5) took it the Horses (6-2, 6-1), who were playing without second-leading scorer Jerrell Reid.
"I don't think they respected us and I thought we played well," said Orapello. "We played really well in the first half."
Amsterdam trailed by six points after one quarter and by seven at the half. Playing against a club that had the Rams outsized at every position -- usually by a few inches, at least -- Amsterdam figured out a way to stay in the game early.
"We played really hard. We were scrapping and they weren't intimidating us," said Robbie Sherlock, who had a team-high 11 points and eight rebounds. "We knew they were bigger than us and a powerhouse team, but we went in, said 'No worries, no pressure,' and played as a team and played together -- and it showed in the first half."
"Really, what it was, was we had a lot of smart decision-making with the ball," said Rams senior John Hardies, who had five points and five rebounds. "We took care of the ball against their high-pressure defense and, even though we weren't hitting a high percentage of them, we were living at the line."
The foul line was both the savior and the enemy of the Rams in the first half. Amsterdam's 16 trips to the charity stripe slowed the game's pace, but the Rams only made 5 of 16 from the line in the opening two quarters.
"I told them at halftime, 'We're in this if we just hit our free throws,'" said Orapello. "But we didn't."
Meanwhile, Amsterdam's success was a source of aggravation for Troy head coach Richard Hurley.
"We were flat early," he said. "We've been like that all year: We've been flat to start basketball games all year. ... But they (Amsterdam) played very hard and were ready to play. That's a credit to them and coach Orapello."
The largest source of frustration for Hurley was with his team's frequent inability to get the ball down low to Ogunyemi. Midway through the second quarter, the coach implored his team to remember to feed the Siena-bound senior.
"Could we please give the ball to the kid who is 6-foot-9?" Hurley yelled.
Troy did a better job of that in the second half, as the Horses were finally able separate from the Rams, who received nine points from Billy Carr and seven from Laboy.
While the 31-point loss was not a pretty sight on the scoreboard at Amsterdam High School, the Rams' biggest loss came early in the first quarter when senior forward Zach Dufel hurt his left ankle. Troy's Hurley said he heard "a pop" when Dufel went down, and the Rams' senior was seen after the game leaving on crutches.
"It's a big loss (if he's going to miss time)," said Sherlock, who also limped from the game with a sprained left ankle. "He's one of our best shooters and he helps me down low. He's a lot of fun to play with and I've played with him since sixth grade. It's going to be a loss, but I'm sure Marcus (Pritchard) and Juell (Springs) will step up in his place."