SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The holiday break line-up went from two opponents to one for the Saratoga Springs boys basketball squad and the Blue Streaks needed every ounce of focus, rest and their big men to step up to defeat Section III’s Jamesville-DeWitt 64-56 Friday night.
Ushering in the New Year with a non-league win Saratoga saw its scoring guards, Aidan Holmes and Aidan Dagostino moved over to the wings and the Blue Streak big men carrying the load against the Rams.
“It was great to see some of our juniors step up, hit shots and play strong against a really quality opponent,” Saratoga Springs Coach Matt Usher said. “We've been searching for some consistency and with the schedule, with some games getting postponed and some injuries here and there; we’ve really struggled to find any flow or consistency.
“Hopefully this can be something that gets us started and we know we've got a lot of things to work on. Moving forward we got some tough games here coming up in the league and it's a good win to start on.”
Six-foot six-inch junior Michael Rogan was the focus of the Saratoga offense on Friday, not only bringing the ball up the court ala LeBron James, but he was deft at finding his other larger counterparts underneath the basket in 6-foot 3-inch junior Luke Britton and 6-foot 4-inch junior Christian Dufort in the paint.
Rogan finished with a game-high 19 points with Britton dropping in 16 and Dufort’s five adding to his big rebounding night. Holmes drove for 13 points on the night, nine coming from the free throw line.
“We needed guys to go inside and get a lot of rebounds because with their size it was huge,” Michael Rogan said. “I was giving them the ball inside and then we can kick it back out to me for an open jump shot. That was huge.”
Rogan 2020 is an improvement from last year where he became a breakout threat for a seasoned, big man Blue Streak line-up.
“He's shown a lot of signs of progress and we're trying to figure out the best ways to use some of these guys that are in new spots, new roles,” Usher said. “Michael played very well down in SUNY Cobleskill against Maine-Endwell when we lost to by one.
“It's nice for him to put two games back to back together where he's shooting the ball with confidence, playing aggressive and doing what we know he's capable of doing. Now it's just going to be trying to stretch it out and play this way consistently because if he's playing like that, we're going to be the best version of ourselves we can be.”
The Rams were never out of the contest, keeping the Blue Streaks in check, answering with three-pointers at crucial moments, but Saratoga continued to answer in the high school double-header with treys from Britton and Rogan.
“We were up big in the first half and then we kind of gave that away,” Rogan said. “We let up a possession and then they'd hit a three, keep trickling back though.
“It was hard to match up with them with their size, but we just had to work harder than them and I think honestly we just wanted it more than them. We just kept pushing the ball and we give it our all.”
The Blue Streaks lost out on a contest against Rutland, Vermont on Dec. 30, postponed due to the icy weather forecast, leaving Saratoga with only one local tilt during the break.
The new year also gives way to a challenging Suburban Council schedule where each win is a leg up on the rest and a loss could prove costly heading into the post-season seeding process.
“We talked about the importance of league play and each game being incredibly valuable for our seed,” Usher said. “We've got Shaker Tuesday, that's the most important game on our schedule.
“We loaded up our non-leagues with some pretty quality opponents for a reason and for a while there I was shaking my head and wondering if it was the right move with a young team and trying to figure out a lot of things out.