HOOSICK, N.Y. — A slow start left the Hoosick Falls Central School boys basketball team down by eight after the first quarter of the team's opener against Hoosic Valley on Wednesday night.
But Panthers coach Mike Lilac has been through a few of these openers and he told his team to ride it out.
The Panthers clicked from the second quarter on, as they outscored Valley by 17 in the final three periods of a 48-29 win at home in a Wasaren League showdown.
There were no first-game jitters for sophomore Guy Milliman. Milliman, tasked with running the point in his first varsity start, got more confidence as the night went on, hitting for a team-high 16 points, including a pair of threes and 8-of-10 from the foul line as Hoosick Falls extended its advantage in the second half.
"I was definitely trying to get the first shot [to fall] and my teammates were amazing," Milliman said. "I was very nervous before the game, they took [the nervousness] away from me and let me just get out there. We told ourselves to buckle down because we came out flat."
Down 10-2 after one, Hoosick Falls scored the next nine points to take the lead, with Rem Hickey (seven points) scoring with 4:07 left in the half to take a 11-10 lead. Valley re-took the lead at intermission as Matt Espey scored in the final seconds for a 19-16 advantage. Espey led the Indians with a game-high 17 points.
The Panthers turned on the jets in the third quarter, taking the lead back in transition. On one end, Connor McCart swatted away a shot that went to Milliman. The sophomore found Alex Mendez, who drained a three from the left wing and a 22-21 advantage. McCart later tied the game at 27-27 after a pair of free throws, then a steal by Mendez and a breakaway layup gave Hoosick a three-point cushion.
The Panther defense took center stage in the final frame, leading by three at 32-29. Over the first four minutes of the period, Milliman hit four straight from the charity stripe and in between he and Mendez knocked down triples in the same spot on back-to-back possessions to stretch the lead to 11.
Any chance for Valley to get back into the game late were thwarted by McCart and offensive rebound, picking up three after teammates' foul shots. McCart had a double-double on the night, 13 points and 10 rebounds. He also added three steals. Hickey added three rebounds, two steals and two blocks to his seven points, and Mendez added nine.
"Connor will attract double-teams all year, he had a slow start in the beginning but we knew he would catch fire," Milliman said. "He was huge grabbing those rebounds and that gives us a chance to get open."
Hoosick Falls improves to 1-0 and sets Lilac at 298 career wins with a game against Mechanicville next week.
"It's huge to beat Valley, they're always tough," Milliman said. "It's amazing to beat them [in] the first game and it sets the tone [for the season]."