BROADALBIN - The Johnstown Sir Bills basketball team won only two games last season but it didn't take long for them to get in the victory column this winter. They powered their way past Fonda-Fultonville 49-44 at Broadalbin-Perth High School in the first game of the Foothills vs. Colonial Council Tournament Wednesday.
Matt Guzielek, making his coaching debut for Johnstown (1-0), knew coming in that for Johnstown to win they would have to do their best work on Fonda-Fultonville's (0-1) 6'7'' forward Will Turner.
"Will's a great basketball player," said Guzielek. "He's 6'7'', he's strong, he's athletic, and he can shoot it from the outside, so he's a really tough matchup for us."
Fonda-Fultonville’s Will Turner (22) ducks under Johnstown’s Jon Heroth (23) during first-half action Wednesday
at the Foothills/Colonial Challenge at Broadalbin-Perth High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Turner scored 10 first half points, but not before both teams struggled to find a rhythm early in the first quarter.
The game remained scoreless and both teams suffered turnover woes for nearly four full minutes. Johnstown's Jamal Vazquez scored the first points of the game to give Johnstown a 2-0 advantage.
Turner scored six points in the first quarter for Fonda-Fultonville, while Zach Valachovic added a three-pointer for the Braves. Ryan Auty scored three of Johnstown's seven first quarter points.
Alec Hornidge buried a three-point shot early in the second quarter to give Johnstown a 10-9 lead, followed by Austin Riska's second block of Turner in as many quarters.
Russ Williams put two quick 3-pointers in to swing the momentum back in the Braves' favor, but it was Ricky Mitchell who provided a spark off the bench for the Sir Bills.
With Johnstown down 20-12, Mitchell scored nine straight points for the Sir Bills. Fonda-Fultonville got two layups from Turner in that time to give the Braves a 24-21 lead entering halftime.
Riska took over for Johnstown in the second half as the Sir Bills were able to assert themselves down low on offense. Riska converted his first basket of the game early in the third quarter to bring Johnstown within a point.
With Fonda-Fultonville leading 31-29, Riska drove to the hoop and drew the foul, while scoring to tie the game. After missing the foul shot, Turner converted an and-one attempt to push the Braves' lead to three. Riska answered with an and-one of his own on Johnstown's next trip down the court. Vazquez drained another 3-pointer to give Johnstown their first lead of the half with under one minute remaining, but Mace Madore made two free throws before time expired to keep Fonda-Fultonville up by one point.
Riska scored the first five points of the fourth quarter and Johnstown went on a 7-0 run overall before Turner made a free throw to end it. Riska responded to a Luke Calkins three-pointer with a three-point play of his own to give Johnstown a 47-42 lead. The Sir Bills were able to successfully run time off the clock as the quarter came to a close to secure Guzielek's first win as the head coach of the Johnstown Sir Bills.
"Our record wasn't that great last year but we've got a lot of returning guys," said Guzielek. "The kids did a really nice job responding and playing as hard as they possibly can."
Turner was the game's leading scorer as the big man poured in 20 points. The Braves relied heavily on Turner, as they couldn't get much going from the field.
"I think guys have just got to step up and knock some shots down, and I think they will," said Fonda-Fultonville head coach Eric Wilson. "I think when we get in better shape and get going, our legs will be better and I think that will happen."
Riska finished with 16 points for Johnstown, while Mitchell scored 11 and Vazquez scored 10.
"Austin Riska is a very good basketball player," said Guzielek." At times he's timid but in the second half when he got his first basket it was kind of game on for him."
The Sir Bills and Braves will both be in action on Saturday with Johnstown facing Cobleskill-Richmondville at 1 p.m. at Broadalbin-Perth High School, followed by Fonda-Fultonville taking on Broadalbin-Perth at 2:30 p.m.
Johnstown 49, Fonda-Fultonville 44
Vazquez 4-0-10, Riska 6-4-16, Mitchell 3-3-11, Heroth 2-0-4, Auty 1-1-3, Hornidge 1-0-3, Caputo 0-2-2. Totals 17-10-49.
Turner 6-7-20, Williams 2-0-6, Madore 2-2-6, Calkins 1-2-5, Myers 1-1-4, Valachovic 1-0-3. Totals 13-12-44.
3-point goals: Johnstown 5 (Mitchell 2, Vazquez 2, Hornidge); Fonda-Fultonville 6 (Williams 2, Valachovic, Turner, Myers, Calkins)