Defensive switch propels Rams to Delaware County boys' title


By John Bernhardt
With 6:34 left to play in the second quarter, veteran South Kortright coach Bob VanValkenburgh had seen enough. His undefeated Rams were in free fall. When Hunter-Tannersville’s dynamic guard Zack Clark buried a 12-foot jumper from the left wing, the Wildcats had scored 10 consecutive points to take a 12-7 lead in Friday’s Delaware League Crossover Championship. VanValkenburgh knew his team needed a change and called for a time out.
The change came through defense. VanValkenburgh sent his Rams back to the court abandoning their zone defense, going with a smothering man-to-man instead. The defensive change proved to be a catalyst, as the Rams totally dominated H-T for the rest of the quarter. S-K outscored the Upper Division Champions 16-1 the rest of the half and from that point forward were never challenged.
At the onset it was all S-K. The Rams displayed some textbook fast break basketball the first time they touched the ball when Eric Burns took an outlet pass down the middle of the court, dished a pass to Dan Many, who hung just off the end line and falling out of bounds hit Josh Palmatier for a lay-up. Palmatier was fouled and downed the free shot for a 3-0 SK lead. Tanner Metzko hit Burns in the corner on the Rams’ next possession, and the senior guard drove the baseline to give the Mountain Division Champs a 5-0 lead.
Zack Clark twisted and turned through the lane hitting a spinning jump shot from in close to get H-T on the board. But SK answered when Many swished two foul shots putting the Rams ahead, 7-2.
Then Hunter charged. Derek Legg nailed a three-point goal from the right wing to start the Wildcats 10-point scoring surge. Ryan Megnin downed two foul shots to tie the score and then followed with a three-pointer from the top of the key to put the Wildcats in front. Clark’s field goal finished the Hunter run and was the Wildcats’ last field goal in the half.
S-K’s iron-tight defense mass produced scoring chances the rest of the half. After a steal, Metzko found Many for a fast break lay-up. An out-of-bounds play ended in a Burns three-point score to tie the game at 12-12. Rashawn Herrington put back a missed shot, and the Rams had the lead again at 14-12. They would never trail.
Burns turned a steal into a full court lay-up to stretch the lead. Kyle Hotaling followed with a baseline drive and a score. Palmatier drove the basket from the left side, converting a spinning lay-up ending the 13-point run with the Rams in front 20-12. Derek Legg hit one of two foul shots for H-T to end the run, but a Burns’ three-pointer, four seconds before the half, sent SK to the lockers at the intermission with a 10-point lead, 23-13.
Metzko hit the first two baskets of the second half to push the SK advantage to 27-13. From there, the Rams were never really challenged. The closest Hunter would get was 11 points, 31-20 with SK pulling away gradually over the final 16 minutes. The Rams gradually distanced themselves, eventually winning the championship, 59-35.
Everybody got into the scoring act for the Rams with each starter scoring six or more points. Burns led the offensive effort netting 12 followed by Herrington who had 10 on the night.