Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wildcats wake up, hold off Rams in Patroon showdown

Rensselaer's Mico De Los Santos flies through the lane as Maple Hill's Sean Danaher defends during Wednesday's Patroon Conference showdown of unbeatens. Maple Hill, on the strength of 23 points and 13 rebounds from Danaher, walked away with the 63-54 victory. (Photos by J.S. Carras - The Record).

The first six minutes of the game were pretty lackluster, as neither team had played in a while because of the winter break. All five Maple Hill starters, however, made one steal in the first quarter and the Wildcats began to pick it up on the fast break just before the quarter ended.

The second quarter saw the teams trade three-point field goals, as six of the first seven buckets - three for each team - came from behind the arc. While neither team tipped the score too far one way or the other during this stretch, it allowed Maple Hill senior center Sean Danaher more space in the paint as the Rensselaer defenders slid out to guard the perimeter. Danaher heated up, the Wildcats got back into the groove of their patented selfless - and flawless - offense and began to pull away.

With Ichabod Crane (6-0, 6-0) victorious Wednesday night, Maple Hill (8-0, 8-0), the No. 7 ranked Class C team in New York State, is one of the remaining undefeated teams in the Patroon Conference.

Rensselaer's Labeeb Vasquez defends Maple Hill's Sean Danaher during Wednesday's game at Rensselaer High School.

Rensselaer, ranked No. 9 in the Class C poll released Wednesday afternoon, just lacks the inside presence that Maple Hill possesses in Danaher. Rams guards Chris Britt and Mico De Los Santos, who had been so effective for Rensselaer in its first seven games, didn't do much in the first half at all. Britt wound up with 20 points after exploding for 14 in the fourth quarter, trying his hardest to will the Rams to some sort of comeback, but it was just too little too late.

Check out the full story in Thursday's edition of The Record.

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Don't count the Rams out just yet...but Maple Hill did expose a few of their weaknesses Wednesday night. The Rams lack an inside presence, but Jarrid Wilkinson could develop into a great post player in time. Tyler Bishop, Labeeb Vasquez and Ryan Spath can also contribute and it's going to have to be a committee process for the Rams when they face talented big men if they're going to be successful.

Rensselaer is going to have a tough time if Britt or De Los Santos is getting shut down. De Los Santos didn't score until the midpoint of the third quarter and Britt did most of his damage in the fourth quarter when the game was all but over anyway. Phil Sayers provided a spark off the bench with four three-point field goals, but the Rams either need to find a foolproof system to keep Britt and De Los Santos on their games no matter the opponent or one of the reserves must emerge as a scoring threat.

Maple Hill, on the other hand, always seems to play a perfect team game. Danaher's statistics jumped out, but he didn't really appear to be dominating the game if you were watching from the bleachers. It was passes from Dominic Prinzo and Chris Despart and rebounding from David Briggs and Jake Jasiewicz that really helped Danaher shine Wednesday night. It's the same formula that carried the Wildcats to the state championship game a season ago.

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The latest girls basketball polls were also released Wednesday, and you can check them out courtesy of the New York State Sportswriters Association here sometime soon.
Here are some nuggets to hold you over:
In Class AA, Shen and Colonie slide up into the top 5.
Averill Park remains No. 1 in Class A.
Watervliet sits at No. 10 in Class B.
Maple Hill is still No. 1 in Class C, although Hoosic Valley slides down from No. 3 to No. 5 after a one-point loss to Class AA Queensbury over the break.

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