By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
TROY -- To start the second half of their Big 10 season, the Amsterdam Running Rams walked into an ambush.
"We came out not ready to play," said Amsterdam head coach Tony Orapello, "and they outplayed us -- I've got to say that."
On fire from the start of Friday night's contest, the La Salle Institute Cadets had one of their best shooting nights of the season, as the home team cruised to an 85-64 victory that did not even feel as close as the final score.
That's because the Cadets were 17 of 28 from the field in the first half, as LSI led by 15 points after one quarter and 26 after one half of action.
"We came in sluggish," said Amsterdam senior Robbie Sherlock. "It seemed like they hit every shot they took and we couldn't hit anything.
"They hit everything," Sherlock repeated for emphasis.
In the first half, three LSI (7-4, 7-2) players scored at least a dozen points.
"We shared the ball really well," LSI head coach Steve Sgambelluri said of the first half. "We've been working on that a lot. We wanted to rebound the ball and get it down the floor, make three, four or five passes, hit some gaps and get good shots -- and, hopefully, pass them up for great shots."
For the contest, Ralph Erickson led the squad with 27 points despite not playing the final 12 minutes, while Dom Razzano had 17 points, and Elijah Burns poured in 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
While the Cadets were having one of their best shooting nights of the season, the Rams (2-8, 2-7) were mired in perhaps their ugliest effort of the campaign. Down 34 points after three quarters, Amsterdam's final margin of defeat could have been a lot worse if not for the fourth-quarter exploits of senior AJ Centi, who made 4 of 6 shots in the stanza to record all 11 of his points.
Up until that point, though, the night had been an offensive struggle for the Rams, who scored just four points in the first quarter and had 34 to their name through the end of the third. For the game, Amsterdam shot 24 of 69 (35 percent), but the team was 15 of 30 in the second half after a dismal opening two quarters.
Orapello said the Cadets' onslaught to start the game left the Rams dazed -- and it snowballed from there for the visitors.
"We lost our poise," said Orapello. "We never got our heads into it."
Sherlock had a team-high 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but even the senior struggled in the first half. The forward missed six of his first seven shots before finding his stroke, while teammate Luis Laboy never could find the touch Friday night -- save for two back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the second quarter -- as the Rams' leading scorer on the season was 3 of 14 from the field on his way to an eight-point night.
The loss was the Rams' fourth in a row, but the defeat was the first ugly one for Amsterdam since the team's third game of the season, a rout at the hands of Christian Brothers Academy.
After Friday's game, Orapello said he opted to cancel the team's usual weekend practice this morning, instead opting to let the team's players have a day to forget about the 21-point loss.
While the loss was a stinging one, the coach said after Friday's game that he did not think the lopsided defeat would derail or hurt his team in the long run.
"No," said Orapello. "I really don't think so. I think what we've got to do is take a break, think about things and remind ourselves what league we're in and what we're supposed to do.
"Some days, you're going to play well," the coach continued. "Today, we didn't."