Offensive struggles doom Panthers
HOOSICK, N.Y. -- Before Wednesday night's Wasaren League matchup against Stillwater, Hoosick Falls Central School boys basketball coach Mike Lilac was honored for winning his 250th game against Tamarac.
Unfortunately for he and the Panthers, Lilac will have to wait at least a couple days for 251.
Hoosick Falls struggled offensively all night in a 42-30 defeat.
"We worked well defensively and only allowing 42 points should keep you in games," said Lilac, whose team drops to 4-4 overall and 4-2 in the Wasaren League. "We're just not doing well offensively."
Stillwater went to a press defense early on that seemed to get the Panthers out of their rhythm. Twice in the first half, that tactic paid dividends as Hoosick Falls committed two 10-second violations not getting the ball past midcourt.
"We like to run our press up-tempo," said Stillwater (4-2, 6-3 overall) coach Dave Cook. "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but tonight it did."
Stillwater senior Shawn McNeil was the leading scorer, pouring in 16 and grabbing eight rebounds as he outsized most of the Panthers front line.
Early on, he gave Stillwater the advantage hitting a couple of short jumpers in the lane, then sealed the game with four straight free throws in the final minutes.
"He's a senior doing what a senior is supposed to do," Cook said. "They've never won here before, so that's big. They really worked hard tonight."
Foul shooting was also a difference maker. As a team, the Warriors hit 12-of-15 from the line, compared to just 5-for-13 by Hoosick Falls.
"Free throws have been one of our strengths this year," Cook said. "We'll take 12-of-15 any time."
In the fourth quarter, down a dozen, the Panthers started to make a comeback. Randy Tutunjian was fouled on a layup, but missed on the three-point play. Then Andrew Hoag added two free throws to pull within eight at 31-23.
Austin Pitt was Hoosick Falls' leading scorer with eight points. Tutunjian was right behind with seven.
Levi Brewster added seven boards for the Panthers.
After the teams traded baskets, Evan Phillips had a chance to make it a two-possession game, but he missed on both free throw attempts.
"Missing free throws kills the momentum," Lilac said. "We work a lot in practice on free throws."
Brewster scored with three minutes to get it to 33-27, but Stillwater hit 7-of-8 from the charity stripe for the win.
The loss drops Hoosick Falls into a tie for third in the league with the Warriors.
The road gets no easier as the Panthers face the top two teams in the league -- Schuylerville and Hoosic Valley -- in the next week. The Indians already have a win over Hoosick Falls this season.
In between, the Panthers also have to face Mount Anthony Union High School.
"We have to sink or swim on our own," Lilac said. "No one will feel sorry for us."
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