By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
Just minutes into Friday's game against Troy, the crowd in the gymnasium at Amsterdam High School held its collective breath as Amsterdam senior forward Zach Dufel writhed on the baseline in pain.
With play stopped, athletic trainer Carla Pasquarelli scooted out to Dufel, with Amsterdam head coach Tony Orapello a few steps behind. As Orapello made his way past the Troy bench, Flying Horses head coach Richard Hurley motioned toward Dufel and told Orapello he had "heard a pop" when Dufel went down.
The senior missed the rest of the contest and left Friday night on crutches, but a late-night trip to the emergency room ended with Dufel receiving relatively good news about his left ankle.
"It ended up being a high ankle sprain," says Dufel, who was on crutches and sporting an ankle brace during Monday's practice.
"I'll probably be out for about three weeks, maybe a little bit more," adds Dufel. "It still hurts, but I'm going to do what I need to do to get back."
Dufel has been a valuable piece for the Rams this season. The senior has started every game and has shown a consistent stroke from deep -- he is shooting 38 percent from 3 -- to help space the floor for Amsterdam.
If he were to miss exactly three weeks, Dufel would next play Feb. 1, at Albany.
While Dufel will not be in the lineup tonight for the Rams, the evening brings a unique doubleheader to AHS, as both the boys and girls varsity basketball teams will play host to Schenectady in back-to-back Big 10 games.
"It's going to be interesting," says Orapello. "I think it's going to be fun. It will create a bit of a different feeling out there."
First up, the Lady Rams (3-5, 1-4) will take on the Schenectady Lady Patriots (0-8, 0-5) at 6 p.m, followed by the boys' game.
Lady Rams head coach Eric Duemler says his team is looking forward to the evening's doubleheader.
"It's fun. The girls don't normally get to see the boys play, and the boys don't normally get to see the girls too often," says Duemler. "I know the boys are excited about it, and our players are, too."
The two teams shared a team dinner Monday night in advance of the doubleheader, a setup the teams last played in a few years ago during sectionals.
"There was a big crowd then," says Duemler. "It was a lot of fun and there was a lot of energy. I assume [tonight] will be the same."
While both the Patriots and the Rams have had their moments this season, both boys basketball teams come into tonight's contest desperately seeking a momentum-building victory.
Amsterdam (2-6, 2-5) has played well in its past five games, but has just a pair of wins in those games to show for its improved play. Meanwhile, after a 3-0 start to the season, Schenectady (4-5, 4-4) has struggled and rides a three-game losing streak into tonight's meeting.
The rivalry between the two public schools has been lopsided in recent years, as Schenectady has bested Amsterdam the last eight times the two teams have met on the court. The Rams' last win against the Patriots came in a one-point decision on the road -- on Jan. 29, 2008.
"But we always have a dogfight with them when we play up at their place," Schenectady head coach Eric Loudis says.
The Patriots' head coach has a point. While Schenectady has swept the season series from Amsterdam in the last two seasons, the Patriots won their home games in those years by an average of 20 points per game; at AHS, Schenectady won a pair of games by 10.5 points per game.
Loudis says that his team does not need any reminder, though, to expect a tough game tonight in Amsterdam.
"We can't take any game lightly," says Loudis. "It's the Big 10, so you always have to come ready to play."
Orapello says his team is ready for the Patriots.
"We're playing better," he says. "We've got a shot at these guys, so I want to make sure we get out quick. We're gaining confidence and we know this is a big game for us."
Tonight's game marks the halfway point of the Big 10 campaign, with Amsterdam heading to Troy to take on La Salle (5-4, 5-2) Friday for the Rams' first rematch of the season. The Cadets defeated Amsterdam, 68-44, at AHS in the team's Nov. 30 season opener.
In that contest, La Salle's Ralph Erickson scored 26 points, while Elijah Burns added 24. No Ram scored in double figures in the contest, in which Amsterdam made 4 of 31 3-pointers.