By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
SCHENECTADY -- A frantic defense and a composed Alonzo Martin combined Tuesday night to lead the Amsterdam Running Rams to their first victory of the season, a 62-57 Big 10 decision against home-standing Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons.
"We needed that," said Amsterdam head coach Tony Orapello, as his team now heads into its bye on a positive note.
For most of the fourth quarter, what the Rams (1-3, 1-3) needed was for the clock to run out on the Golden Knights. A youthful Amsterdam squad saw a nine-point lead with 3:45 to play in the contest dwindle to two points with a minute to go before the Rams closed the deal.
"It was kind of nerve-wracking," Amsterdam sophomore guard Andrew Druziak said of the game's final minutes. "Everyone's watching and there's a lot of pressure -- but we did good."
Martin, who saw limited action in the Rams' first three games, served as Amsterdam's closer Tuesday night. The junior guard scored the Rams' final six points -- all on free throws -- on his way to a team-high tally of 17 points, all of which were scored in the second half.
The guard survived a rough first half to become the game's hero. Entering off the bench not even a full minute into the first quarter for an injured Billy Carr -- the AHS senior suffered a cut to his left eyelid that forced him to miss the rest of the contest -- Martin stumbled his way to four turnovers and no points in nine first-half minutes.
"In the first half, I was too hyped up," said Martin. "I had too much energy. Then, in the second half, I calmed down and everything just started to fall into place."
For the game, Martin finished with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists.
While Martin closed the contest out for the Rams, it was the Amsterdam defense against the ND-BG (0-4, 0-4) offense that did most of the work for the visitors. Led by Bryan Stanavich and Andrew Rouse, the AHS defense compiled 16 steals. Most importantly, Rouse made ND-BG star Dwayne Freeman work for his game-high 27 points.
"They made [Freeman] work, they definitely did," said ND-BG head coach Jay Mahoney. "They did a good job of taking him out of his game, at times."
Drawing the assignment of guarding Freeman -- who came into the contest averaging 25 points per game -- for most of the game from the second quarter onward, Rouse bumped and chased the ND-BG senior all over the floor, as Freeman made just 9 of 25 shots.
"It's hard going against a guy like that," said Rouse, still a little breathless after the final buzzer. "It was a challenging game."
The sweetest part of the night for Rouse? Drawing a charge from Freeman with 4:39 to play in the fourth quarter, the guard's fifth and final foul.
"It was exciting for me just to have him not playing the rest of the game," said Rouse, with a laugh. "He was tiring me out."
Not everyone saw the call as a good one, though.
"It was a questionable, questionable charge call," said Mahoney. "From where I was standing, it looked like [Freeman] moved his body around [Rouse]. In Big 10 boys basketball, that's not a charge."
After Freeman fouled out of the game, the Rams stretched their lead to nine points on a free throw from Zach Dufel. But, then, things began to unravel for Amsterdam, as ND-BG's Sabin Zarrandikoetxea led the Golden Knights in a late-game charge against the frazzled Rams. Zarrandikoetxea hit a 3-pointer with a minute to go to get the Golden Knights within a basket, but the Rams finished the game from there without incident, as Martin made free throw after free throw.
"I tried not to let [the situation] get in my head," said Martin. "I tried to stay composed, stay under control, and just play my game."
Besides Martin, Druziak scored 11 points, dished out four assists and had three steals, while Dufel had eight points. Rouse and Stanavich each added seven points, while Stanavich had four steals.
Beating the Golden Knights was an especially welcome outcome for the AHS seniors, who lost to ND-BG three times last season, including in the Section II Class A playoffs.
"It definitely was a big win," said Dufel. "The locker room was really excited. This is a win against a Class A team, a team we'll play in sectionals. This is big.
"It feels nice to finally come out on top against these guys," Dufel finished.
While Tuesday night's victory was not without its faults -- the Rams had 23 turnovers -- Orapello seemed content following the contest. With a win to burgeon his team's spirits and a week off before the team's next game, Orapello said he likes where his club is headed.
"It's coming," said Orapello. "I can see it coming. At times, we looked pretty good. We're getting there."