By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
GLOVERSVILLE -- Earlier this season, Amsterdam Running Rams basketball head coach Tony Orapello was discussing his coaching career and had to laugh when he realized he could not put a number on how many seasons he had been in the coaching game.
So, while Orapello is in his first year of his current tenure at the helm of the Rams -- he previously coached AHS in the 1980s and early 1990s -- he has been around the game for quite some time, including a successful stint as the men's basketball head coach at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
That abundance of experience is what made Orapello's level of shock following his team's 95-80 loss to Mekeel Christian Academy in the opening round of the Gloversville Holiday Tournament Friday night so notable.
"Every time we made a shot, they did, too," he said. "Every time we made a 2, they came down and made a 3.
"I've never seen shooting like that," he said.
Three of the MCA Lions (2-2) scored 20 or more points, highlighted by Caleb Stewart's 32 points and 13 rebounds.
"The pace of the game was where we wanted it to be," said MCA head coach Chad Bowman. "I didn't know if we had the athletes to match up with Amsterdam, but we did a great job of getting to our spots and making the extra pass to get the ball to our shooters."
Those shooters were what made the Lions' night pop off the page. MCA made 17 of 31 3-point shots, seemingly answering every Amsterdam (2-5) run with a trey or two -- or three.
"They were coming down, throwing it up and it was all going in," said Orapello. "They were making shots from 21 feet, 23 feet, some were even from 25 feet -- they were way-out shots."
"We just couldn't stop them," Amsterdam senior Luis Laboy said.
What kept the Rams in striking distance, though, was that the Lions could not find a recipe for containing Laboy. Coming off a season-high 24 points in the Rams' most recent game, Laboy struck for 31 points on 13-of-16 shooting from the field. Adding to his spectacular night, the senior guard had six rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.
MCA built an early lead on the strength of a 13-3 run midway through the second quarter. A pair of 3-pointers from Spencer Bath -- who had 21 points, all on 3-pointers -- keyed that run.
But Amsterdam always stayed in striking range thanks to Laboy, while Robbie Sherlock added a dozen points and Billy Carr had 11.
"It was tough. I thought we shot the best we did all year tonight," said Zach Dufel, who added 12 points. "But they were coming down and drilling wide-open 3s every play."
While MCA had itself a night shooting the basketball -- overall, the Lions were 32 of 55 (58 percent) from the floor -- the Rams' defense was more than a little accommodating.
"I thought our defense was terrible," said Orapello. "We thought we could run with them, but we didn't run anything. We just didn't have it today. We just didn't have the effort. ... By the time we started doing a little bit of something, we were already down and they continued to be hot."
Amsterdam cut MCA's lead to nine points early in the fourth quarter on a Laboy three-point play.
"Amsterdam starts five seniors that play Big 10 basketball," said Bowman. "So, they've got experience and they don't quite. We knew they were going to keep coming."
But the free-throw shooting of Stewart and 17 fourth-quarter points from Courtney Pearson -- who had 20 points for the contest -- were enough to hold off the Rams, who will now play Fonda-Fultonville in the consolation game of the tournament. MCA will play Gloversville in the title game.