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By ROB JONAS

NISKAYUNA – The best way to describe Shenendehowa's effort against Niskayuna Thursday night was efficient.

 

The Plainsmen (6-1) jumped out to a 13-2 lead and cruised to a 64-39 victory over the Silver Warriors (0-6) in a Suburban Council boys basketball game.

 

“The guys played a solid 32 minutes of basketball,” said Shen coach Tony Dzikas.

 

There wasn't any particular aspect of Shen's performance that stood out from the rest. Christopher Hulbert (17 points) and Abbas Merchant (15 points) provided the one-two scoring punch Shen has been accustomed to this season, and the Plainsmen used their height – every player on the roster is at least 6 feet tall – and length to grab the vast majority of rebounds over a smaller Niskayuna squad.

 

Niskayuna did everything it could defensively to stay within striking distance of Shen, but the Silver Warriors were undercut by a lack of a strong interior presence on offense. More often than not, Niskayuna settled for three-point shots and didn't grab the offensive rebounds when they missed the mark, leading to a number of one-and-dones.

 

“It was our defense that kept us in the game,” said Niskayuna coach Ben Smith. “We got a little gimmicky out there. We went to a triangle-and-two. They have two really good players – No. 5 (Hulbert) and No. 3 (Merchant), and we did a pretty good job of stopping them.”

 

After falling behind by double digits in the first five minutes, Niskayuna hung tough throughout the remainder of the first half and trimmed the deficit to eight points early in the third quarter on a three-pointer by Jack Murray and a free throw by Sean St. Lucia.

 

Shen quickly quashed any hopes Niskayuna had for pulling off an upset, though. Hulbert drained a fadeaway jump shot, and Merchant finished a fast break with a pull-up three-pointer to give the Plainsmen a 40-26 advantage. Another short spurt at the end of the third quarter – capped by a Greg Monroe three-pointer at the buzzer – extended Shen's lead to 51-34. Niskayuna never recovered after that.

 

TJ Sangare contributed 12 points for Shen, which entered the Christmas break on a three-game winning streak.

 

“I'm very proud of the group with the start we've had,” said Dzikas. “To get to the break with only one loss with the schedule we've had – with playing (defending Section 2 Class AA champion) Bethlehem twice and playing Troy (all wins) – I'm pleasantly surprised.”

 

Jack Evans netted nine points, and Murray added eight points for Niskayuna, which has scored 40 or fewer points in five of its first six games.

 

“We've gotten exponentially better each and every game with everything we've asked of them to do,” said Smith. “The only thing is the offense isn't clicking.”

 

 

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