CANAJOHARIE - Playing their sixth straight road game Thursday, the Fort Plain Hilltoppers powered past the Canajoharie Cougars for their fourth straight win, 53-44.
For the Hilltoppers (7-5 overall, 5-3 WAC), the win on Canajoharie's home court caps an impressive winning streak away from Fort Plain. It also served as revenge for a 64-61 loss to the visiting Cougars in December.
"It's a really big win because last time we played them at our place they beat us," said Fort Plain point guard Aiden VanLoan. "This put us in second place for the WAC and this gave us a better shot for the WAC Cup at the end of the year."
Fort Plain’s Aiden VanLoan (5) drives between Canajoharie’s Logan Sala (10) and Colin Davis (4) on his way to the basket during Wednesday’s Western Athletic Conference North Division game at Canajoharie High School. (The Leader-Herald/Shaun Anich)
The Hilltoppers out-rebounded the Cougars and Canajoharie (8-4 overall, 5-3 WAC) big man Josh Gonzalez was, for the most part, held in check. Gonzalez, who drew the attention of Eric Orlogio and Xavier Lanier, finished the game with nine points and six rebounds.
Limiting the effectiveness of Gonzalez was a major talking point leading up to the game for Fort Plain.
"He scores most of his points by getting his misses," said Fort Plain head coach Casey Russom. "I think whatever guy we put on him they just play tough, play behind him, try to force him to his right, contest his shots, and limit him to one shot."
Orlogio, who pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds and added 10 points to grab a double-double, said it was his personal mission to not let Gonzalez have a big night.
"I know he can have some big shots and big games, but I think we all pulled together and stopped him," said Orlogio.
The Hilltoppers used a 10-0 first quarter run to put some distance between themselves and the Cougars. VanLoan drove hard into the lane for two layups in the quarter while Orlogio tallied six points.
Canajoharie, who finished the first quarter with four straight points to cut the deficit to 16-12, struggled from the field in the second. A jumper by Logan Sala and a layup from Colin Davis were the only two field goals of the quarter for the Cougars. They were, however, proficient from the free throw line. They went 10 for 12 in the first half while Fort Plain didn't score a single point from the stripe.
With Fort Plain carrying a 30-24 lead into the third quarter, they took a more patient approach to their offense.
"Runs happen when you take quick shots and they go down the other way," said Russom. "We got back on defense and didn't give them the easy looks."
VanLoan hit two floaters and a jumper in the third for Fort Plain, but spent a great deal of the evening getting others involved.
"[I was] trying to penetrate and dish to our bigs because it was big to get their bigs in foul trouble to get them out of the game late," said VanLoan. "That helped us a lot."
The teams combined for 20 attempted free throws in the fourth quarter, but Canajoharie only came within seven points of the Hilltoppers before losing by nine.
Canajoharie had won three straight entering Thursday, and will look to rebound at Saratoga Central Catholic Friday at 7:30 p.m. Fort Plain will look to stay hot when they return home to face Galway on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Fort Plain 53, Canajoharie 44
Fort Plain 16 14 10 13 - 53
Canajoharie 12 12 8 12 - 44
Florian 6-0-12, Orlogio 3-4-10, VanLoan 5-0-10, Empie 1-5-8, Stever 3-0-6, Lanier 2-0-4, Briggs 1-0-3. Totals 21-9-53.
Veeder 2-10-14, Davis 5-0-10, Gonzalez 2-5-9, Sala 3-0-6, Ouderkirk 2-1-5. Totals 14-16-44.
3-point-goals: Fort Plain 2 (Empie, Briggs); Canajoharie - none