Margaretville edges Gilboa to win Booster Tourney
By John Bernhardt
It’s a pity so few local fans got to see the boys’ championship game in this year’s Margaretville Booster Club Basketball Tournament. With the season’s first major winter storm looming, tournament officials tried to “one-up” Mother Nature by pushing up the title game to a 10 a.m. Saturday start. The early tip-off and Mother’s Nature’s counter with the early morning arrival of snow meant only a hardy band of local enthusiasts were on hand to watch a remarkably entertaining game. The host Blue Devils let a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead slip away before recovering just in time to down Gilboa, 57-54 to secure the title.
Local fans will have a second chance to watch these teams do battle when Gilboa returns to Margaretville tonight, Wednesday, in a league rematch. Game time is 7 p.m.
This year’s Booster Tournament brought together three of the top Delaware League’s boys basketball teams. Gilboa earned its way into the finals behind Zack Perry’s 20-point scoring effort, in a bruising, racehorse paced, 53-47, victory over Stamford in the tournament’s opening round Thursday.
A big night
Matt VanValkenburg turned in arguably the best all-around performance of his three-year varsity career, matching Perry’s 20-point performance to lead Margaretville over Roscoe, 57-42, in Thursday’s nightcap. VanValkenburg dished out eight assists and hauled down eight rebounds in the Blue Devils’ first-round victory.
Perry started off Saturday morning where he left off Friday night, scoring the first six points of the title game and nine of Gilboa’s 13 points in the opening period. After Perry’s opening salvo, Margaretville settled down, running a drive and kick offensive game to perfection. Kyle Short, the tournament MVP, nailed a three-point bomb to start the Blue Devils’ scoring and a second “three” just before the first period horn to give his team a 19-13 lead.
Shooting on target
Margaretville put on a dazzling outside shooting display in the second quarter with Cooper Reither hitting one shot behind the three-point arc and VanValkenburg burying a pair of treys. VanValkenburg’s second long-range bomb just before the half stretched the Blue Devils’ advantage to 36-25 at intermission.
Dylan Shaffer opened the second half by shuffling a pass to James Warner for a short banker. Shafer buried a 15-foot jumper from the corner, and then Warner dropped in a shot from just behind the foul line with the home team in front 42-25. Gilboa’s spirit looked broken.
The teams traded baskets throughout the rest of the period with a second straight Margaretville title looking all but assured with the Blue Devils ahead, 51-34, heading into the final eight minutes of play.
If you hang around gymnasiums watching basketball games enough, you learn that when two good teams tangle, no matter how lopsided the score may appear, there is no such thing as a “slam dunk.” Saturday’s title game is living proof of that adage.
As the fourth quarter began, Gilboa awoke from a long slumber. When they did, the Wildcats were everywhere on the defensive end of the floor. In less than four minutes of play, the Wildcats scored 13 consecutive points, whittling a once impenetrable Blue Devil lead to 51-47.
VanValkenburg hit one of two foul shots to slow the Wildcats’ assault, but the momentum was clearly Gilboa’s. Hunter Grace put back a Wildcat missed shot, and two Ben Standhart foul shots left the teams separated by a single point at 52-51.
One of two Short foul shots added one more Blue Devil tally, but Christian Cooper’s two foul shots with 1:11 still to play knotted the score at 53-53.
A heads-up, rapid-fire decision with 34 seconds to play proved to the be the difference maker. Margaretville attempted a field goal with the ball bouncing high off the rim. The Blue Devils’ Cooper Reither was positioned with two taller Wildcats on one side of the lane tracking the missed shot. Reither’s upward thrust beat his opponents to the ball, but the Margaretville guard could only get one hand on the basketball. Spotting teammate Dylan Shaffer all alone on the other side of the lane, Reither shuffled a pass from the air, finding Shaffer wide open for the deciding score.
Christian Cooper drew a foul on Gilboa’s next possession, hitting his first shot, but his second shot fell off the front of the rim with Margaretville rebounding. The Wildcats were forced to foul with 13.9 seconds left, and Shaffer hit one of two, pushing the Blue Devils’ lead to 57-54.
Gilboa had enough time for a three-point try, but the Wildcats seemed reluctant to pull the trigger. Time ran out without Gilboa getting a clear look and clean shot at the basket.
Perry led all scorers for Gilboa netting 21 points. Cooper added 17, 10 during the Wildcats’ fourth-quarter rally. Both were named to the all-tournament team.
Short paced Margaretville scoring 15 points. VanValkenburg and Reither finished with 14 apiece, with both guards joining MVP Short on the all-tourney squad.
Margaretville’s Shaffer played his best basketball of the year netting eight points. Alex Serdiouk had a good night on the boards for the Blue Devils pulling down seven rebounds.
The tournament championship improves Margaretville’s record to 4-0.