FORT PLAIN - Logan Sala was playing in his first game of the season for the Canajoharie Cougars Wednesday and, despite what he said, rust did not appear to be an issue. Sala poured in 20 points including four three-pointers as the Cougars edged the rival Fort Plain Hilltoppers 64-61.
Sala scored Canajoharie's first 10 points of the second quarter and nailed a 3-pointer in both the third and fourth quarters. Sala missed Canajoharie's first two games recovering from a soccer injury where he smashed his two front teeth going for a header.
"I felt a little rusty," said Sala. "Me being with that mouth guard, I have to breathe differently, and it was pretty tough."
Canajoharie’s Colin Davis (4) puts up a shot over Fort Plain’s Eric Orologio during Wednesday’s Western Athletic Conference North Division game at Harry Hoag Elementary School in Fort Plain. (The Leader-Herald/Shaun Anich)
Sala came out scorching in the second quarter, but it was Colin Davis who had the hot hand for Canajoharie (2-1) in the first. Davis nailed two threes in the quarter, the second of which was immediately answered with a three by Fort Plain's leading scorer Aiden VanLoan to tie the score at 10 each. Kiernan Briggs made five three-pointers in the game for Fort Plain (1-3), including one near the end of the first to give Fort Plain a 15-14 lead.
Sala set the table for Canajoharie in the second, but Fort Plain was even hotter from outside. Briggs added two more 3-pointers in the quarter including a rainbow with four seconds left to knot the score at 28. Canajoharie head coach Phil Schoff attributed Fort Plain's early efficiency with the deep ball to lazy Cougar defense.
"With a matchup zone our bottom guys weren't holding on the wing guys as high," Schoff said. "When you have shooters like Fort Plain does and you keep your hands down when you go out to contest, anybody can shoot over the top of us and they capitalized when our hands were down."
The Hilltoppers struggled in the third quarter after beginning the half on a 6-2 run that gave them a four-point lead. Sala made a jumper that ignited an 11-1 Canajoharie run. The final points of the run came when Veeder scooped in a layup at the buzzer to give Canajoharie a 41-35 lead.
Despite the cushion, Canajoharie struggled to convert shots at the rim and lacked an offensive rhythm for much of the first three frames. Six 3-pointers helped out the Cougars in a game where Fort Plain had steady control of the low post.
"When things are stagnant we've got to finish at the rim," said Schoff. "When the shots are falling off we had our big guys just kind of watching. We need to out-rebound every team that we play, especially in this league, and finish at the rim and we just didn't do that tonight."
Both teams exploded offensively in the final quarter. With Canajoharie up 44-38, Briggs made his fifth 3-pointer of the game for Fort Plain to bring the Hilltoppers within three.
They were able to tie the game at 50 following a Briggs' layup on an assist from Van Loan. Fort Plain's Eric Orologio got to the basket for four big layups in the quarter, but five different Cougars scored in the final minutes to propel Canajoharie out in front. Veeder and Davis sank free throws as the minutes ticked away to sew up the win. The teams combined for 49 points in the quarter.
Sala was the high-point man for Canajoharie, followed by Veeder with 14 and Josh Gonzalez with 13.
"I knew as soon as he [Sala] came back he was going to make a difference in the ballgame," Schoff said. "I didn't think that he'd be that hot that early in the ballgame but he's the type of kid that has so much fire and so much competitiveness. He wanted to be on the court for the past eight weeks."
Briggs finished with 19 points for Fort Plain. VanLoan added 13, just below his season average of 15 points.
Canajoharie will be back in action tomorrow at home against Saratoga Central Catholic at 7:30 p.m. The Hilltoppers will travel to Galway tomorrow with tipoff scheduled for 6 p.m.
Canajoharie 64, Fort Plain 61
Canajoharie14 14 13 23 - 64
Fort Plain15 13 7 26 - 61
Sala 8-0-20, Veeder 4-6-14, Gonzalez 5-3-13, Davis 3-1-9, Folts 2-0-4, Ouderkirk 2-0-4. Totals 24-10-64.
Briggs 7-0-19, Orologio 6-3-15, Van Loan 4-4-13, Florian 3-1-7, Empie 2-0-6, Calbet 0-1-1. Totals 22-9-61.
3-point-goals: Canajoharie 6 (Sala 4, Davis 2); Fort Plain 8 (Briggs 5, Empie 2, Van Loan).