LANSINGBURGH – All the television shows with long runs go through different cast members. It’s no different with basketball teams.
The cast at Schalmont is slightly different this year, nine months after the Sabres won the Class B state championship in girls basketball. But just as TV shows have good writing to sustain them, Schalmont has defense.
The Sabres didn’t shoot well in the first quarter of their season opener Friday, but it didn’t matter, as their defense helped provide a 21-4 lead after the first quarter en route to a 74-21 Colonial Council win over Lansingburgh.
Schalmont graduated 2,000-point scorer Payton Graber and Haley Burchhardt, both all-state selections, but has another all-stater returning in 6-foot junior Karissa Antoine. She showed her all-around game Friday with a game-high 25 points, to go along with nine rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks.
Not just as a returning starter, but as a junior on a team with only one senior, Antoine is now a leader for the Sabres.
“It’s just about rebuilding and finding where our connection is now,” Antoine said. “So slowly but surely, we’re building that back. And the more we get at it, the better we’ll be. It’s just a work in progress, every day.”
Antoine has said it has been fun to take on more of a leadership role.
“It’s just about taking the JV players that came up under my wing and showing them, because they’re going to be in my position someday. It’s just about showing them what our program is about and keeping it going,” Antoine said.
The main thing the program has been about is defense, and that was a welcome fall-back as shots didn’t fall early.
“I think we shot, like, 10 percent in the first quarter, but the kids completely bought in to playing defense,” Schalmont coach Jeff Van Hoesen said. “They love playing defense, and it puts us in a spot where we can score off that.”
“Our defense has always been the best thing we can do,” Antoine said. “That’s just something [Van Hoesen] kept pushing at us: keep it up on defense, hands all over the place, keep them out of the middle.”
Guard Gianna Cirilla, the other returning starter from last year’s team, added 24 points, three steals and three assists. Mikaela Frank had 11 points, six rebounds and four steals, while freshman Arianna Brandon finished with 10 points and six steals.
“Arianna was usually first or second off the bench [last season],” Van Hoesen said. “In the state run, she got some big minutes. We’re happy we brought her up last year to give her that experience playing with Payton and Haley, and now she’s coming into her own, even as a ninth-grader. You can see the maturity, and her game is starting to come, and she’s starting to do a good job for us.”
Van Hoesen said the players all have different roles now, but they’re embracing the opportunity. Having such a comfortable lead Friday helped the Sabres work on different aspects.
“I thought the kids played hard, and I was happy with how they handled our first game,” Van Hoesen said.
Schalmont 21 26 18 9 – 74
Lansingburgh 4 5 3 9 – 21
Schalmont scoring: Frank 4-0-11, Cirilla 10-0-24, Devine 1-0-2, Antoine 11-2-25, Hindes 1-0-2, Brandon 2-6-10. Lansingburgh scoring: Sheppie 3-0-6, Espada 1-0-2, Johnson 3-1-8, Miller 1-0-2, Losee 0-1-1, Goyette 1-0-2. Scoring totals: Schalmont 29-8-74. Lansingburgh 9-2-21.