LOWVILLE — From tip-off to the final buzzer, even when most of Lowville’s starters had already been sent to the bench, the packed bleachers in Lowville’s gym were ready to explode with every layup, 3-pointer or bad call. It was only a late-regular season game against Watertown, and one that the boys varsity basketball team won 71-35, but the crowd was primed and ready for sectionals, and by the looks of the Red Raiders, so were they.
Of course they’re not looking too far ahead, they still have one more regular season game left against Indian River this Thursday. Then they’ll play in the Frontier League semifinals next Tuesday and then most likely in the finals at Jefferson Community College that following Thursday.
But nevertheless, the No. 1-ranked Class B boys team in the state looked ready for more meaningful games. Though the score against Watertown didn’t indicate a particularly close match, the Cyclones provided plenty of challenges for Lowville (15-1 overall, 11-0 league) to navigate.
Watertown (10-8, 6-2) is a big team that is guard-oriented. Ryan Peters, Marlon Hinds-Ventour and Kevin Harp are strong at going to the basket while also presenting a good jump shot.
Initially, the Cyclones tried to speed up the tempo, essentially trying to run past the Raiders. Lowville proved to be just as quick from the jump. “I think that a lot of teams try to do that but we pride ourselves on being in shape and playing a fast game,” Lowville’s Aidan Macaulay said. “I kind of like when teams do that because it kind of plays into our hands so I think that’s a strength for us.”
Watertown is a Class A team and its size and skill-set represents some of the teams Lowville might see come sectionals. “It’s nice to see a team like that because that’s like a team we’ll see in sectionals when we get farther,” Aidan Macaulay said. “The Syracuse teams, Westhill, Solvay, they all have nice ball handlers so it’s nice to see a team that can mirror that.”
Macaulay, who finished with 15 points, talked about the importance of establishing roles heading into the playoffs. Brett Myers finished with four points but played a key role in defending the Cyclones and has come into his own this season as a starter.
“He’s been someone that didn’t get a lot of time last year and he’s coming on to a team that had a pretty good year last year, he’s kind of figured out his niche,” coach Zach Shambo said. “We call him the garbage man, he gets the deflections, he gets the steals, get the put-backs like we saw tonight.”
In an attempt to move the ball out of Lowville’s smothering traps, Watertown turned the ball over. The Cyclones did occasionally create open shots but struggled to hit on their opportunities. Peters and Joel Davis led the Cyclones with eight points each.
Off the bench for Lowville, Brody Brown again came up big with three 3-pointers all in the second half. The Red Raiders boast a strong bench that they can go against in practice.
“Really where they come in most is pushing us in practice, getting us ready for the games, and their support on the bench, they’re awesome on the bench,” Gavin Macaulay. “Not every team has a second unit like that that can really make us work every day in practice. It helps us never take a day off, we’re always working hard in practice, because they’re going to keep it on us if we don’t, they’re going to beat us if we don’t.”
Gavin Macaulay finished with a team-high 17 points, including two of the Red Raiders 10 3-pointers. However, one of his more impressive plays came without the ball in his hands. While getting back on defense midway through the first quarter, the junior took a charge near the sideline to get Lowville back on offense. It was, ultimately, given the final score, meaningless, but it was an example of the type of smart basketball the Red Raiders are playing.
“We talk about that all the time in practice, we look for those opportunities,” Gavin Macaulay said. “Those are the plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet, but are the type of things that get your team into the game, get the crowd into the game. It’s just a heart play and you don’t always get the opportunity to make them, so when you do, you have to make the most of it.”