As the wins continue to pile up for the Colonie boys' basketball team, veteran coach Ken Dagostino hasn't devised a new offense or defense. Instead, he has his Garnet Raiders investing trust in each other.
Friday night, that bond manifested itself during the fourth quarter against Bethlehem in a crucial Suburban Council Blue Division contest.
Late in the shot clock with the game tied, Colonie junior standout Isaiah Moll received a pass in the middle of the lane. Without hesitation, Moll flicked the ball out to a wide-open Will Aybar at the top of the key. Colonie's junior point guard was scoreless at that point, yet Moll set up Aybar for a 3-pointer that he drained.
Four different Colonie players made 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help secure a 62-59 victory over the Eagles in a highly entertaining and well-played contest.
Colonie (16-3 overall, 14-2 league) captured its 11th straight victory and avenged a 62-59 loss at Bethlehem on Dec. 13.
"I just have so much confidence in my teammates. I know they can make shots, so I will get them the ball," said Moll, who paced Colonie with 24 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. "When I have to step up and score, I will do it."
"I don't think we're playing better basketball. I think we're loving each other more," Dagostino said.
The ball barely touched the floor in the first minutes of the game as Colonie dashed out to a 13-0 cushion. Moll and Aybar each had two assists on the first four baskets, including a trio of 3-pointers (two from Brendan Mulson and the other by Bryce Waterman).
"We came out cold and this was a big experience for us with a huge crowd," Bethlehem coach A.G. Irons said. "They're really good and I am not making any excuses. We came out scared. We scored that first bucket and settled in. We've got some things to clean up."
The Eagles (16-3, 13-3) not only settled down, they surged into the lead behind a balanced attack in the second quarter that earned the visitors a 31-22 halftime advantage.
"They're a tough team. Very disciplined," Moll said of Bethlehem. "They listen to Coach (Irons). We knew we had to rebound because they get a lot of offensive rebounds."
The second half proved to be an epic tug of war to gain control. The lead changed hands 11 times after intermission to go along with six ties.
Waterman (15 points on five 3-pointers), Mulson and Moll joined Aybar in knocking down 3-pointers over the final eight minutes. In all, the Garnet Raiders made 11 3-pointers. Aybar's was the biggest of the bunch.
"When it comes to Will, a lot of people didn't consider him a shooter last year and back off him," Mulson said. "He worked hard on his shot during the summer. All the credit to him because he's been knocking down big shots ever since."
"They made some phenomenally big 3s down the stretch when we were going well," Irons said.
Bethlehem's final advantage came when Matthew Riker grabbed his own miss and converted for a 59-58 edge. Moll, however, was fouled by Ryan Murray (team-high 15 points) with 39.6 seconds left. The 6-foot-7 star proceeded to drain both attempts.
Bethlehem called timeout with five seconds left — and 1.0 seconds left on the shot clock. Moll stole the inbounds pass, was fouled and made two more free throws to finish 6-for-6 at the line in the fourth quarter.
"I love it," Moll said. "I'm in the gym all the time practicing free throws. I have confidence in that situation. I know I can make free throws. You have to have the will to win. That's what it is."
"I thought we played gutsy," Irons said. "We got to the basket and understood how to attack against them. I am very proud of my guys. Extremely proud."
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