By MICHAEL KELLY
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- Fresh off their most impressive win of the season, the Amsterdam High School Running Rams return to their home court today against another top Big 10 foe.
After topping Troy Thursday in overtime, 77-76, the Rams (5-9, 4-8) will play host today to Christian Brothers Academy (9-5, 8-4).
When AHS and CBA met back in December, the Brothers prevailed with a 69-43 victory. In that contest, CBA's Greig Stire led all scorers with 17 points.
Today's matinee tip comes at 1:30 p.m. Here are three things to keep in mind for the contest:
Off Thursday's emotional victory against Troy, today's start will be key for AHS. Will the club bring its momentum to the game and jump out fast on the Brothers? Or, did Thursday's win take too much -- mentally and physically -- out of the Rams?
While the AHS players' legs should be fine for today -- these are, after all, teenagers -- look for head coach Tony Orapello to use his bench earlier than usual. Each of the Rams' starters -- Kory Bergh, Alonzo Martin, Andrew Rouse, Bryan Stanavich and Marcus Pritchard -- played at least 25 minutes in Thursday's game, so the AHS reserves need an early opportunity to get acclimated to the contest.
Watching CBA's energy level early in the contest will be interesting, too. The Brothers are in the midst of what qualifies as a slump for them -- they are 4-4 in their last eight games -- and CBA needs today's win to register another season with double-digit wins.
FRONT LINE FUTURE
Injuries, illnesses and disciplinary reasons have often kept the Rams from fielding their full roster all at once this season, but that changed Thursday night. With all of his players available, Orapello was most excited to use junior forwards Pritchard, Hector Rodriguez and James Valentin together against Troy -- but that combination never saw the court together Thursday.
Circumstances dictated that, as AHS used a 3-2 zone defense against Troy. However, the Rams will likely play 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone defenses against CBA, so Orapello will be able to use his trio of junior forwards together today.
That grouping has promise for the Rams. While Pritchard provides a steady offensive presence for AHS from the forward position, Rodriguez and Valentin each are high-level athletes capable of grabbing lots of rebounds.
NOT SO FAST
After ripping the nets for 33 points in Thursday's win, Amsterdam's Bergh is likely to find today's game much more taxing.
CBA has a stable of sizable defenders it can send at the sophomore guard, who will be the center of attention for the Brothers on the defensive end of the court. Already this season, CBA has shut down Bergh; the Rams' leading scorer on the season was kept to a season-low two points the first time these clubs met.
But, for the same reasons Bergh was a tough cover for Troy, the guard will be tough for CBA to bottle up a second time. The Brothers will likely play a man-to-man defense against the Rams, so Bergh -- who is 5-foot-8-inches tall and weighs 130 pounds -- will have opportunities to use his quickness to get away from his defender. If the sophomore can get himself free at the right times and make good on his chances, AHS could deliver a second consecutive upset victory.
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