By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
From the first half of the Running Rams' season, no game's result screams out more for payback than Amsterdam's eight-point home loss to Albany in mid-December.
Tied with the Falcons at halftime of that contest, the Rams had no answer for the visitors in the third quarter. In that stanza, Albany made 8 of 11 field goals and opened up a 13-point lead on the Rams.
"Honestly, they came out and just shot. They just shot," says Amsterdam senior guard Billy Carr. "I think their coach got them hyped up at halftime and we weren't as intense as them."
The Rams cut into the Falcons' lead in the fourth quarter, but could never even the score.
Amsterdam (3-10, 3-9) gets its chance for revenge tonight in Albany (3-11, 2-10) in a Big 10 contest. With a victory tonight -- and some help in other league games -- Amsterdam could be playing for a chance to move into sixth place in the Big 10 Tuesday night against Bishop Maginn.
But the Rams need to take care of things one at a time, which has been the Rams' thinking all week. After Amsterdam's game tonight, the Rams turn around to play the Fonda-Fultonville Braves Saturday.
"But the focus, first and foremost, is Friday," says senior guard John Hardies. "We'll just deal with Saturday after that."
Coming off a win a Friday ago, Amsterdam head coach Tony Orapello says he thinks is club is mentally in a good place.
"It seems like we're more relaxed and thinking a lot better on the court," says Orapello. "It looks like we're getting some confidence, some poise."
Orapello says his team knows a win tonight could do wonders for the Rams' seed in the Section II Class A playoffs, since a win tonight would be Amsterdam's second against a Class AA school.
"They know we've got to win," Orapello says.
To do that, the Rams need to make sure the Albany shooters are accounted for -- apparently, especially in the third quarter.
"We've got to stop their shooters, get a hand in their faces and not give up baseline to them," says AHS senior Robbie Sherlock. "It would be tough to duplicate a shooting performance like they had last time, but they've shown they're capable of doing it."
"We've got to come out and play," says Carr, "and, hopefully, they don't come out really hot again."
Tonight's contest starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be played with a pink-and-white basketball, as the contest will serve as a Coaches vs. Cancer event.
Flying with the Falcons
Much like Amsterdam did not too long ago, Albany brought a multi-game losing streak into Tuesday's game with powerful CBA, only to lose to the Brothers after a tight, back-and-forth contest.
"We really thought we had a shot," Albany head coach Kenneth Danzy says.
Albany ended up losing by 13 points after leading at halftime, as the Falcons dropped their fourth game in a row. For Danzy, it has been a trying rookie season at the helm of the Falcons.
"We've got a lot of guys who are young and don't really realize at this moment how to value the basketball," says Danzy. "But we're still preaching it."
Turnovers have been a problem all season for the baby Falcons, who only had one player -- Marquan Chandler -- on their roster with significant varsity experience heading into this season.
"Our problem all season has been turnovers and a lot of them have been unforced turnovers," says Danzy. "The risk-reward is usually not in our favor."
But Albany's youth sometimes works in its favor, too. All season, the Falcons have played better on their home floor -- the game against CBA was at Albany -- which Danzy says is because of the raucous crowd at the Albany gymnasium.
"Our kids feed off that," Danzy says.
Just trust me
That is the sentiment Amsterdam's Luis Laboy kept expressing to Hardies in timeouts during Friday's win against Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons.
Trying to sneak behind the Golden Knights' zone defense, the 5-foot-10 Laboy kept giving Hardies the signal -- an extended index finger toward the rim -- for an alley-oop pass.
"They were playing a zone and I was behind it, wide open, so I was trying to get'm to do it," says Laboy. "But he told me during the timeouts that he couldn't throw it because he didn't want to get in trouble.
"But I just told him: If you throw it, I'll get it and it'll be fine," Laboy finishes.
Hardies takes some issue with the idea he was simply trying to avoid Orapello's ire by not making the lofted pass.
"It was because I didn't want to throw an alley-oop with the game so close," Hardies says.
But, with the Rams up three points and on a run, Hardies finally gave in to his teammate's wishes. Off a ND-BG missed shot, Laboy streaked down the court and found himself behind all of the Golden Knights' defenders; seeing him open, Hardies let a two-hand chest pass fly from about 60 feet away from the basket.
"I love passing and that was just a show of confidence," says Hardies. "I threw it up there and, credit to Luis, he went up and got it."
"But I was surprised," says Laboy, laughing. "I didn't think he'd throw it from that far."
Laboy did, catching the pass mid-jump and converting the lefty lay-in to increase the Rams' lead to five points. The basket pushed the Rams' third-quarter advantage to 17-4, causing a ND-BG timeout.
In the ensuing timeout, there were no consequences for the highlight play -- to Orapello's chagrin.
"Like any coach, you don't like to see them do stuff like that," says Orapello. "But, when it happens and it works, you can't really say much about it, can you?"
Finally, the wait for the Rams' game with the Fonda-Fultonville Braves is (almost) done.
The social-media chatter started before the teams were originally supposed to play on Dec. 29 as the consolation game of the Gloversville Holiday Tournament, with much of it intermittently continuing as the two teams waited for the make-up game, which is to be played Saturday, at Gloversville, at 3 p.m.
"We've been wanting to play them for a while -- all year, really," Laboy says.
The two programs do not play each other often and the two schools, in general, do not regularly play, except in girls volleyball.
"We're all excited about that one," says Sherlock. "I don't really know much about the chirping (between the two teams), I've heard of it, but we're excited. We want to beat them and they want to beat us, so it will be competitive -- but that's what you want."
The game has special meaning for Zach Dufel, the Rams' senior forward. Dufel played for the Braves through seventh grade before coming to the Amsterdam district. He says Saturday's contest will be an emotional one for him -- not only will he be playing against his former teammates, but Saturday is the anniversary of the death of his father, who was an F-F student.
"It's going to be interesting," says Dufel. "It will be fun and hopefully we come out on top."
One way or another, the Rams are making out well this weekend. With the team playing a game Saturday, that means the team does not need to wake up for its typical 7:30 a.m. Saturday practice.
When asked if he is more excited for the game against the Braves or getting to sleep in Saturday, Hardies pauses and considers the two options before answering.
"That's a good question," says Hardies. "I guess I'd say playing a local team because everybody loves playing a game."
Around the league
To have a chance to play for sixth place Tuesday at Amsterdam High School against Bishop Maginn, the Golden Griffins will need to be upset tonight by Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons. The Griffins beat the Golden Knights by 17 points the first time around. ... The most interesting Big 10 matchup of the night will take place in Colonie, where CBA will play host to Schenectady. Despite their 12-1 league record, the Brothers have looked vulnerable in recent games, beating Amsterdam by seven points, La Salle Institute by six and Albany by 13 after trailing early. ... With his 34-point game earlier this week, LSI's Erickson entered into the heat of the league's scoring race. Catholic Central's Anthony Mack still leads all individual scorers with his 20.8 points-per-game average, but Erickson is breathing down his neck at 20.4. ND-BG's Dwayne Freeman is third in score at 19.5.