By MICHAEL KELLY/Recorder Sports Staff
GLOVERSVILLE — Playing deep into the fourth quarter of Saturday afternoon’s boys basketball game against the Fonda-Fultonville Braves with his fellow reserves, Amsterdam Running Rams forward Marcus Pritchard knew something was not right.
A sophomore, Pritchard figured if the Rams’ bench unit was still in the contest, the game must have still had loads of time to go.
“But I looked up at the clock and was like, ‘Wait — there’s just four minutes left in the fourth quarter? We’re still in?’” Pritchard said.
For good reason, the Rams’ reserves were still in the contest. Given extended minutes for the first time in several games, the Amsterdam bench responded with its best effort of the season, as the Rams were 69-51 winners in the much-delayed consolation game of the Gloversville Holiday Tournament.
A night after the Rams’ reserves registered only four points in 36 combined minutes of action, Amsterdam’s bench players scored 41 points and sealed the victory for the club with a spirited stint in the fourth quarter.
“They played with confidence, didn’t they?” said Amsterdam head coach Tony Orapello. “They did the right things and played well.”
Pritchard led the second unit — and all the Rams — Saturday, as the sophomore turned in his best statistical line of the season with a dozen points on 6-of-7 shooting, seven rebounds and five blocks. Reserves such as Andrew Druziak (seven points, three assists), Alonzo Martin (eight points) and Andrew Rouse (eight points) also made valuable contributions.
The start of the second unit’s big moment came midway through the third quarter, when Orapello removed his starters with an eight-point lead. After a ho-hum end to the third period, the Rams’ reserves outscored the Braves 14-7 in their five fourth-quarter minutes.
“I was kind of surprised because I thought we’d come out a couple minutes into the fourth quarter,” said Druziak. “But we were doing pretty well. … It gave me a lot of confidence.”
The strong play from the team’s underclassmen was not unexpected to the team’s starters.
“Not surprised at all,” said Rams senior John Hardies. “We practice with them every day. Today, they just got the opportunity to go out and play more (than usual).”
The Rams (4-11, 3-10 Big 10) were able to use their depth to wear down the short-handed Braves (6-9, 4-7 Colonial Council). While Amsterdam had nine players score in the first half, F-F suited up just eight Braves for the game.
The advantage of depth was evident in the second half, in which Amsterdam outscored F-F, 37-22. The Braves went into halftime down just three points, but the Rams’ full-court pressure was too much for F-F in the second half.
“We got worn down in the second half,” said F-F head coach Eric Wilson. “Absolutely.”
In the second half, F-F turned the ball over 12 times. Meanwhile, the Braves’ legs seemed to lack some of their usual spring following the club’s overtime win the night prior; the undersized Rams blocked a season-high 10 shots in Saturday’s win.
“I thought we were going to be OK after the way the first half went,” said F-F center Will Turner. “But, coming through the fourth quarter, we had it down to eight or nine points — and, then, it got away.”
Turner was the major reason why the Braves were in the game. The 6-foot-7 junior scored a game-high 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting, while also grabbing six rebounds.
But while F-F also received a solid outing from Ryan Derby, who had 17 points and six rebounds, the rest of the Braves’ supporting cast offered only six points.
Meanwhile, from the Rams’ starting unit, Zach Dufel had 11 points and Luis Laboy offered nine.
In the fourth quarter, there were times when the Amsterdam starters seemed restless on the bench, not used to sitting next to Orapello during crunch time. But after a basket from Turner brought the Braves to within eight points with roughly six minutes to play, the Rams reserves went on an 8-0 run to finish their day before giving way to the starters for the final three minutes.
Druziak said the bench players took their big day (mostly) in stride when asked if the second unit had reserved any trash talk for the starters they carried to victory.
“No, not after the game,” said a smiling Druziak. “Just a little during the game.”