Nobody ever said the Suburban Council was easy. Far from it.
Still, Troy High, which lost non-league games as an independent last season to Bethlehem & Guilderland before officially joining the league, lost their 1st league game Tuesday night at Colonie, 62-59. Tonight's game, the home opener vs. Columbia, was now a must-win to avoid going 0-2 for the second straight season.
It was also a homecoming for a former Troy player, but you wouldn't know it, unless you've been reading this blog, since there was absolutely zero mention in the newspapers prior to the game. Curtis Sankey, who played for Coach Joe Geiger in the late 70's & early 80's, returned to what is now the Clem Zotto Memorial Gym as the coach of the visiting Blue Devils. The funny thing was, he wasn't listed on the program as the coach. A Columbia supporter told me before the game that Sankey had stepped down after last season, and David Romer was the new coach. However, it was Sankey that led the Blue Devils out onto the court for the varsity game, which was delayed 80 minutes at the start due to the freshman game going into overtime, thus putting everyone else behind schedule. More on that later.
Columbia also entered the game at 0-1, having lost their home opener to Albany on Tuesday. There were several lead changes in the first period, which ended with Troy holding a 4 point lead at 17-13. Ryan Carmello, the son of superintendent John Carmello, got things rolling right away with a 3 point basket, and finished with 9 points.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, the wheels fell off in the second quarter, as Troy's suffocating defense held Columbia to just 4 points in the frame. The Blue Devils never got back into the game, as Troy allowed only 20 points in the second half en route to a 76-37 win. Senior guard Justin Luther, Columbia's leading scorer, fouled out with 1:55 left in the third quarter, though some might think one foul wasn't meant to be ascribed to him.
Troy's lineup overall had a new look, as their two stars from last season, Zach Radz & Dyaire Holt, transferred to prep schools in the off-season, the idea being that it gives them a better chance to be recruited by a Division 1 college. They're not alone, as Guilderland (Andrew Platek) & Catholic Central (Anthony Mack) similarly saw their stars take the prep school route this season. Now, I'm not entirely certain of high school eligibility rules, but Holt had been a 4 year player, having made the varsity while still at Troy Middle School as an 8th grader. Not sure about the others. The Flying Horses, though, get center Jack McLaren back, after he missed the second half of last season due to injury. Meanwhile, Daniel Buie, who led all scorers with 26 points tonight, demonstrated he's more than ready to fill the void created by the departures.
Tonight's game started a 3-game homestand for Troy. Up next will be long time foe Schenectady on Tuesday, and then next Friday, the Mighty Warriors of Mohonasen come to town. After that, Troy will play seven of eight on the road, starting in Ballston Spa on 12/15, and including a Christmas tournament at Bishop Ludden on 12/26-27. That road trip will be the litmus test for Troy. Time will tell if they will be a player in their first season in the Suburban Council.
The structure of the games today illustrates again that changes need to be made. Each game (freshman, junior varsity, varsity) was scheduled 90 minutes apart, with the varsity game scheduled for a 7 pm tip. The freshman game was set for 4 pm, and, as noted, went to overtime, perhaps double overtime, before Columbia won. However, Troy also won the JV game, which was in the 3rd quarter when I arrived shortly after 7. Section II expects the games can be played within that 90 minute window, with no consideration for overtime. Granted, when the varsity game ended at 9:50, it had in fact been played in exactly 90 minutes. The fact that the local press often ignores freshman & junior varsity results doesn't help put the pieces together.
Nobody said it would be easy. Tonight, it was easier than it had any right to be.