JOHNSTOWN - The Johnstown Sir Bills converted 14 of 18 fourth-quarter free throws on their way to a 55-44 win over the Hudson Falls Tigers in a Foothills Council Basketball contest at Johnstown High School on Saturday.
Jamal Vazquez was a perfect nine for nine from the stripe in the fourth, a quarter in which the two teams combined for 49 points.
The late offensive outburst was a far cry from an abysmal first-half shooting the basketball.
Johnstown’s Austin Riska (34) drives to the hoop past Hudson Falls’ Matt Connolly during Saturday’s Foothills Council game at Johnstown High School. (The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan)
Hudson Falls' Dalton Hogan and Vazquez exchanged threes to kick off the game, but both teams struggled to get into any sort of offensive rhythm. The Tigers (3-5 overall, 1-3 league) didn't score another point in the first quarter, while the Sir Bills (6-2 overall, 2-2 league) mustered just seven total points.
"To start off we were sluggish," said Johnstown head coach Matt Guzielek. "I think we just didn't do the little things - the fundamental things we've been preaching about all year as far as setting screens, getting guys open, coming to the ball and getting good space."
Neither team fared much better in the second quarter. Ryan Auty danced into the lane for a layup late in the frame for Johnstown, who tallied eight points in the second from five different players. The Sir Bills outrebounded the Tigers 26-16 in the first half with many of them coming on the offensive end. Johnstown amassed enough second chance opportunities to grab a 15-9 lead heading into the break.
"We believe in playing hard defensively and sharing the basketball," Guzielek said. "In the first half, we didn't really share the basketball as well as we have been the last two or three games."
The 15 first-half points for Johnstown and nine for Hudson Falls were season lows.
Austin Riska had the hot hand for Johnstown to start the second half, as the Sir Bills were able to get to the rim effectively. They scored eight straight to begin the third quarter, including four by Riska, to take a 23-9 lead. Riska scored eight of his 16 points in the quarter.
Hudson Falls heated up from downtown in the final quarter, cutting a 14-point Sir Bills lead to seven on multiple occasions. Wayne Strong and Christian Henkel each drained two from beyond the arc, but Johnstown's free throw shooting allowed them to keep a steady lead.
The Tigers used a full-court press and swarming defense to keep Johnstown from running out the clock, leading to touch fouls nearly every trip down the court.
"Free throws are game changers," said Guzielek. "We were able to make free throws toward the end and fortunately for us we were able to win the game."
All in all, the Sir Bills knocked down 20 of 30 from the line in the game.
Vazquez finished with 16 points for the Sir Bills, tying Riska for the team lead. Henkel led all scorers with 18 points for Hudson Falls, with 13 coming in the fourth quarter. The Tigers' 25 fourth-quarter points were more than they scored in the previous three quarters combined.
The Sir Bills, winners of three straight games, will look to stay hot on the road Tuesday against the Broadalbin-Perth Patriots.
Johnstown 55, Hudson Falls 44
Johnstown7 8 16 24 - 55
Hudson Falls3 6 10 25 - 44
Riska 3-10-16, Vazquez 3-9-16, Heroth 4-1-9, Szurek 3-0-6, Auty 2-0-4, Hornidge 1-0-2, Lee 1-0-2. Totals 17-20-55.
Henkel 5-5-18, Connolly 3-3-9, Strong 3-0-8, Hogan 2-2-7, McGuire 1-0-2. Totals 14-10-44.
3 point-goals: Johnstown 1 (Vazquez); Hudson Falls 6 (Henkel 3, Strong 2, Hogan)