By MICHAEL KELLY
TOWN OF AMSTERDAM -- After a week's worth of practices during which head coach Tony Orapello made sure the members of the Amsterdam Running Rams basketball team knew how poorly they were shooting from behind the 3-point line, the Rams responded with their best shooting night of the season on Friday.
"They were getting better looks," said Orapello. "They weren't forcing shots."
In the Rams' 67-61 victory against La Salle Institute at Amsterdam High School, they made 11 of 20 3-pointers. In the Rams' first four games, AHS was shooting a dismal 21.6 percent from behind the arc.
"We focused extra hard on shooting this week at practice and it paid off for us," senior forward Eric Robertshaw said.
Robertshaw made one 3-pointer on Friday night, while sophomore guard Kory Bergh made 4 of 8 and senior guard Andrew Rouse made 6 of 10.
Rouse had struggled with his shot in recent games and had missed 11 of 12 3-pointers in his last two contests. But the senior got to bear a big smile after Friday night's victory, in which he made one big shot after another.
"I was just feeling it," said Rouse. "I had the stroke and my teammates fed me the ball with good passes."
A HEAD-SCRATCHING NIGHT
Throughout the young season, the extra-strict officiating has caused problems for teams.
Friday night, it caused a lot of headaches for both squads, as each team's players wore confused looks on their faces at various points.
"It just wasn't consistent," said Orapello, whose team was whistled for 27 fouls while LSI was called for 14 infractions.
LSI head coach Steve Sgambelluri said that he knows it is tough for the officials to adjust to the new guidelines that essentially outlaw any hand-checking. But Sgambelluri said the issue has gotten to the point where he struggles at his own practices to call fouls when his team scrimmages.
"I don't really know what a foul is anymore," he said. "And that's not a knock on anyone -- that's just the truth."
AHS junior forward Marcus Pritchard said it is tough for the players to adjust after years of being taught to play physically in the Big 10 and in AAU basketball.
"We always practice hard, we foul each other, hit each other and play physical," said Pritchard. "That's just how we are."
But that will need to change, as the whistles are not letting up for the Rams and their opponents.
"We're still getting used to it," Pritchard said.
HE CAN LAUGH NOW
AHS junior forward James Valentin carried the Rams Friday night, amassing 10 points, 11 rebounds and three steals.
What he could not do, though, was carry his success over to the foul line. From the charity stripe, Valentin was 2 of 6 -- and one of his makes was banked in off the backboard.
Speaking after the game about how the Rams closed out the game, Valentin got to laugh about his struggles a bit. He credited his teammates for making free throws down the stretch -- Robertshaw made a crucial pair in the final minute -- and lamented his own inability to find the touch from the line.
"Me, I struggled," he said, laughing.