MCS girls, Andes boys win Devils' tourney titles
By Julia Green
It was second-half domination for the Margaretville Central School girls’ varsity basketball team in the championship game of the Second Annual MCS Booster Club Tournament on Saturday, in which the Blue Devils posted a convincing 42-21 victory over the Franklin Purple Devils. The Franklin girls held the lead only once during the game, with just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“Jordan Beers was hot in that first quarter, with a three and a couple of buckets,” said MCS Head Coach Kyle Holden. “Seven of the nine points they scored were because of Jordan.”
The Blue Devils didn’t let Franklin get too comfortable, however, scoring eight points and limiting the Purple Devils to two in the last three minutes of the opening quarter. Eleven of leading scorer Brandi Balcom’s total 13 points were scored in the first half, during which the Blue Devils outscored their opponents 26-18.
It was during the second half, however, that the Blue Devils all but ran away with the game. The MCS girls limited Franklin to three points in the third quarter and none in the fourth while scoring a total of 23 second-half points to widen considerably an eight-point halftime lead.
“I didn’t say anything different about our defense at halftime,” Holden said. “Just to remain focused on what we were trying to do, give them one shot, control the boards because that was going to control the tempo, and that’s what we were trying to do. They remained focused on what they wanted to accomplish and that was huge for us.”
The Blue Devils came out of their full-court press in the second half in an attempt to rob Beers of some of her momentum, and instead engaged in some half-court trapping and falling into their zone, which Holden said contributed to their ability to limit Franklin’s scoring opportunities.
“We just continued doing the same thing,” Holden said. “And we focused on closing in on shooters and not giving them good looks.”
Erica Faulkner, a regular starter for the Blue Devils, got into foul trouble early, committing two quick fouls early in the first quarter, but Holden praised his team’s ability to adapt and maintain its momentum.
“The girls adjusted well,” he said. “We’ve been dealing at different times with foul trouble and injuries, and it’s actually made us stronger as a group. That’s actually a good thing for us right now.”
Faulkner and Balcom led the Blue Devils with 13 points apiece, while Casey Hubbell added eight and every girl on the Margaretville roster save one scored at least once. Brittney Hull led Margaretville in rebounds with 10 and Faulkner and Balcom each added eight. Hubbell led MCS in steals with three and Sara Batka in assists with four.
Balcom and Hubbell were both named to the All-Tournament Team, with Balcom receiving Tournament MVP honors.
“Brandi just owned the inside in both [tournament] games,” Holden said. “She’s one of the girls we definitely look to for scoring, and she has one of the prettiest jumpers in the league right now. The other girls have so much confidence in her scoring, and her defense – when she’s the last line of defense, if it comes inside, she’s going to get a hand on it.
“Casey is a sparkplug out there,” he added. “She’s so active on top of our zone, getting deflections. It seems like if there’s a ball going through the passing lane, she gets a hand on it, and that seems contagious. I think that’s why our defense has been so strong for us. She plays big minutes with the number of girls we have, and she’s a great team player – she cares more about the team than she does about her stats.”
Holden said that, overall, he was pleased with his team’s decision-making, saying that his players are identifying situations better and are doing a better job protecting the ball when they have a lead.
“It’s a nice little mix we have right now,” he added. “From every game we’ve played this year, we’ve taken something and tried to improve it, and this was our best game so far. They executed well on offense, worked well together on defense, they gang-rebounded – they just looked really good.”
Following the winter holiday, the Margaretville girls, who are currently 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the league, play host to South Kortright on Jan. 7.
“They’re a great program with good coaches and good players,” Holden said. “I absolutely think we can be competitive with them if we rebound well, stay composed, defend well… every facet of our game has to be there for us to be competitive. With our girls’ confidence rising, I’m enthused about getting together with Kortright to see how we do. And it’s always nice to be home when we play them.”
Girls’ consolation: Andes vs. Hancock
Despite an early lead in Saturday’s consolation game of the MCS Booster Club Tournament, the Andes girls dropped a tough 31-30 decision to Hancock, with the Mountaineers’ Mariah Ruff hitting a three at the buzzer to bring Andes within one.
“It was 8-7 at the end of the first, and not just in the first quarter I didn’t feel like we were putting the ball in the basket like we should,” said Andes Head Coach Jeff Rhone. “We had a ton of missed opportunities.”
An early 7-2 lead for the Mountaineers was shaved to a one-point lead after Hancock made a free throw and a bucket just before the end of the quarter. That momentum appeared to say with the Hancock girls in the second quarter, when they tallied eight unanswered points and managed to keep the Andes girls off the board until there was only a minute remaining in the half.
“We had talked about playing them on the right side, and we had seen them before and they shoot a lot from the outside, but we didn’t feel like they had a high percentage, so we said not to get too close and just get a hand in their face,” Rhone said. “Give them the shot, but contest it. But the Jones girl scored six points in that quarter, and I think probably two of those shots were in the corner without anybody stepping in.”
Andes battled back to a 19-18 lead at the start of the second half, though Rhone said he believed those numbers to be more indicative of what Hancock didn’t do than what the Mountaineers did do.
“I think it was more indicative of what they didn’t do than it was of us battling back,” he said.
He added that at halftime, the focus was on the Mountaineers’ press-breaker.
“We talked about that a little bit, and getting the ball to the middle of the floor,” he said. “We weren’t using the middle of the floor. We kept dribbling the ball up the side of the court and into their trap. So that’s one of the things we did discuss at halftime: breaking their press.”
The Mountaineers were unable to maintain the lead, falling five points behind by the end of the quarter, although they scored first in the fourth quarter. It was back and forth in the fourth quarter, with Andes striking first to narrow the margin to three; however, Hancock responded to keep a five-point lead. Ruff hit a three with four minutes remaining to bring the Mountaineers within two, but back-to-back Hancock buckets widened the lead to four.
“I was pleased because I have said to the girls that we want to try to hold teams to under 32 points,” Rhone said. “I feel like we should be able to score 35 in a game. We were right on as that goes. They did OK, and I was pleased with that.”
Ruff, who received All-Tournament Team recognition, led the Mountaineers with 12 points. Rachel Andrews had seven points and Karli Tait added six points and seven rebounds for the Mountaineers.
“I’m really pleased with Mariah’s play right now,” Rhone said. “Offensively she’s making some good choices. At times, she’s obviously a seventh-grader, which shows when she tries to force passes that aren’t there. Defensively, she has a long way to go, but she’s young, and for her age she’s doing a spectacular job.”
The Mountaineers’ first game back after the winter break will be Jan. 6, when they host Windham at 5:30 p.m.
Boys’ championship: Andes vs. Gilboa
It was a rematch of a game that took place mere days before, but Saturday’s championship match of the Margaretville Central School Booster Club’s Second Annual Tournament was a different game than its predecessor.
The Andes Mountaineers clinched the tournament championship with a 42-27 win over the Gilboa Wildcats Saturday night, despite falling behind early in the first half.
“I thought that Gilboa played really well,” said Andes Head Coach John Bernhardt. “They came in with a game plan and they really executed in the beginning of the game very well. They were trying to spread the floor and use multiple passes and run the clock down, and we didn’t particularly handle that pace well in the beginning. It took us awhile to get into our rhythm.”
The Mountaineers were down by 12 midway through the first half.
“Eric Reed played extremely well when we got down,” Bernhardt said. “When we were down 15-3, he scored eight of 15 points for us during that time. He had a three-point shot, a two-point shot, and he penetrated the basket and hit three of four foul shots during that run. This is the best game that he played; he just had an all-around game for us.”
Reed tallied a total of 10 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Mountaineers.
The Andes boys also struggled to get into their press-break formation early on, but a modification to their full-court press in the second half helped keep the Wildcats’ offense in check. They battled back gradually, scoring eight unanswered points to narrow Gilboa’s lead to two. A three-pointer by the Wildcats’ Loukas Vogiatzis afforded the Wildcats a little breathing room, but they were unable to get much more as Reed hit an answering three-pointer for Andes with just over three minutes remaining the first half to cut Gilboa’s lead to one. Another Andes bucket a minute later gave the Mountaineers a lead they never relinquished, and they held an 18-16 lead at the half.
“I told them in the beginning that I was proud of where they were,” Bernhard said of his halftime speech. “They had positioned themselves to get back in the game with their defensive play. We made a few adjustments in our offensive play when Gilboa moved to a 1-3-1; I thought we reacted well to it.
“In the second half, we did some things really well but we didn’t finish the shots,” he added. “I was pleased to see where we would call a timeout and set something up and they would go out and execute successfully and either make or miss with a pretty reasonable shot.”
In the second half, the Mountaineers gradually widened their lead, scoring 10 of the first 12 points in the second half and limiting Gilboa’s scoring opportunities as the Wildcats struggled to move the ball inside. Bernhardt credited his team’s ability to pull ahead with good defensive play.
“It was 18-16 at halftime, and really the baskets were not coming easy,” he said. “It was because of extended hard defensive play, that’s what got us back in. In the first half, Gilboa made their shots, and when they got ahead they were shooting well and they were running the clock down and milking it for every second they could get. We got a little panicky and our offense gave the ball away a few times, and when you do that, you find yourself in a hole.”
Andes’ Josh Bonifacic led the Mountaineers with 13 points and 10 rebounds and was named the tournament MVP. Ethan Berghammer added seven points and four steals.
“Josh had a great game for us,” Bernhardt said. “He’s been very steady for us all year. Ethan provided us with a defensive boost when he went into the game in the first half. He had four steals and just seemed to increase our intensity and our defensive focus; I felt that he was the catalyst to our defense.”
Apart from a Monday night game at Roscoe, the Mountaineers head into the winter break and will return to competition on Jan. 6, when they host Windham, and Jan. 8, when they travel to Hunter.
“It’s a nice thing to be able to win the tournament,” Bernhard said. “They’re improving all the time and we’re kind of fortunate that we haven’t played the really top-tier competitive teams yet, and hopefully we’re going to gain a little confidence and maybe we’ll be a little more competitive when we do it. At the beginning of the year I just wanted a series of really close games whether we won or lost so they could experience what competitive play was about. That’s still there, but I’m pleased that we’ve been able to look good and win some of these early games.”
Boys’ consolation game: Margaretville vs. Franklin
In their own Booster Club Tournament, the Margaretville Blue Devil boys took it down to the wire in both games. In last week’s first-round match-up, the MCS boys allowed two buzzer-beaters at the end of the first and second halves to fall to the Gilboa Wildcats, which sent them to the consolation game; in that match-up with the Franklin Purple Devils, it was once again down to seconds.
The Blue Devils scored first in the game, but back-to-back three-pointers by Franklin’s Cody Zuk and Malcom McNeilly and another three by Zuk shortly thereafter put the Blue Devils into an early hole.
The Blue Devils, missing four players from their roster in addition to Steve Amundsen, who is once again out with an injury, suffered another blow less than five minutes into the game, when Brian Faulkner, who regularly leads MCS in points and rebounds, was ejected after drawing two technical fouls.
“It was hard to lose Brian that early in the game,” said Margaretville Head Coach Jeremey Marks. “He needs to do a better job controlling his frustration, especially when it was so early on, and our team needs to do a better job responding to that and not take so long to get back into the flow of the game.”
The Franklin lead widened to ten points with just over ten minutes remaining in the first half as the Blue Devils struggled to find a rhythm for the remainder of the half.
“I thought that the eight minutes after Brian was ejected was a crucial time and we didn’t handle it well,” Marks said. “We committed some frustration fouls and the situation seemed to get the better of us. But then, coming out of halftime, we settled down and came out and played our game. That’s what got us right back into the game.”
Despite a 12-point deficit at halftime, Margaretville gained some momentum in the second half, gradually chipping away at Franklin’s lead. Danny Jenkins, Marcus Moore, Jon Lee and Mitch VanKeuren combined to tally 16 points for the Blue Devils, who limited Franklin to six points on two three-pointers.
Opportunities abounded for the Margaretville boys to tie the game as time ran down. VanKeuren’s three-pointer with 1:23 on the clock cut Franklin’s lead to three points. VanKeuren went to the free throw line with 1:03 remaining, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to leave the score at 39-36. The Blue Devils created a breakaway with 42 seconds remaining, but a missed layup turned the ball back over to Franklin.
A steal by Tyler Smith once again resulted in an MCS possession, but the Blue Devils missed a second layup with 35 seconds remaining. Following a rebound, another attempt to score failed but resulted in a foul on Moore, who went to the line and made one of two foul shots to shave another point off Franklin’s lead.
The Blue Devils were unable to find the basket again, however, and as Moore fouled out with seconds remaining, the Margaretville boys were left with four eligible players on the court. Smith made the front end of a 1-and-1 to make it 39-38, but a foul against Franklin sent them to the line, where they made one of two to result in the final 40-38 score.
“I was very proud of how we only had six guys out there, and we had two guys foul out, and then at one point we had only five guys and had another foul out – I was happy with how we came back,” Marks said. “I wasn’t too happy with the last minute of the game and with the opportunities we missed, but that’s part of the game.”
Marks said he was pleased with the limited number of rebounds his team allowed, as well as the defensive and rebounding efforts of his squad during the second half, in which the Blue Devils scored 21 and limited Franklin to 11.
“Our defense on the whole in the second half was much better,” he said. “In the first half we didn’t do a good job of getting to shooters and rebounding, as they hit five of their six threes in the first half. As a whole, our team needs to do a better job of staying within themselves and staying in the game, not letting teams get big leads and having to battle back. If we didn’t let them get 13 points and have to battle back… we dug ourselves quite a hole.”
Margaretville’s Jon Lee received All-Tournament Team honors. Lee had five rebounds, three steals, three assists and four points.
“Jon was very active on the defensive end, getting loose balls,” Marks said. “He just plays with a tremendous amount of heart and unselfishness on the court. He’s always looking out for the betterment of the team.”
Note: The Roxbury boys’ and girls’ basketball games originally scheduled for this week were rescheduled due to inclement weather.