CLIFTON PARK — After a slow start, Watervliet turned it on in the second half and snuck past Catskill on Friday night at Shenendehowa High School in the Class B quarterfinals, 66-63.
Watervliet struggled to get any momentum going in the first 16 minutes of play, plagued by careless errors that caused them to not score points and turn the ball over. Catskill took advantage of the sloppy play as they grabbed as much as a six-point lead during the second quarter.
“Early, we just missed a lot. Five, six shots, layups around the hoop,” Watervliet coach Orlando DiBacco said. “Some unforced turnovers, maybe the excitement of the moment and the game being a big game.”
The last few minutes of the first, however, was a sign of things to come for the Cannoneers. They finished the half on a 7-2 run and closed their deficit to 28-27 at the break.
Watervliet immediately took the lead as the second half was just beginning, and it became a back-and-forth battle the rest of the way. The teams traded leads, and Catskill began to pull away yet again, owning another six-point lead, this time at the end of the third quarter.
That’s when Watervliet senior Joey Atkins took over. He scored the first six points of the fourth quarter as part of a 10-1 Watervliet run to begin the final eight minutes as his team pulled out to a 51-48 lead with six minutes remaining. Although Catskill tied the game up at 51, Watervliet took back the lead on a three from Derrick Beason which ended up being a lead that they never relinquished.
“The second half we had to get buckled in and get into the flow of the game,” Atkins said. “We did that.”
DiBacco added, “I told them at halftime (to) try to loosen up. They felt like they had the weight of the world on their shoulders. Everyone was tight and missing shots, and just their body language. Just go out and play,” he said. “I’m very proud of them.”
Atkins came up big all the way through for the Cannoneers, scoring 29 points. He also scored his 1,000th career point during the game and was recognized on the court postgame.
“It’s a lot of hard work and dedication through my whole high school career, and I’m happy I got to do it tonight, and my teammates supported me the whole time,” Atkins said.
Watervliet moves on to the Class B semifinals and will see top-seeded Mekeel Christian, who also won their quarterfinal game on Friday. That meeting will be on Monday night at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.