Top-seeded Davenport ends Andes' run in sectional tournament
By Julia Green
It was very nearly a Cinderella story when the 12th-seeded Andes boys trailed top-seeded Davenport by only a point with 12.5 seconds remaining in Thursday’s Section IV Class D semifinal match in Oneonta.
“I was convinced we were going to be in the game,” said Andes Head Coach John Bernhardt. “[Assistant Coach] Dave Ruff and I were convinced that if we played the way we had played in the previous five games we had played, we would be in the game. Earlier in the year, it seemed like we were five guys on our own, and we found a way to bring it all together. We were kind of on a roll.”
Unfortunately, that roll came to an end on Thursday, when the Mountaineers dropped a 43-40 decision to the top-seeded Wildcats of Charlotte Valley at the Dewar Arena at SUNY Oneonta.
Down by a point with 12 seconds on the clock, the Mountaineers had possession of the ball beneath their own basket; an in-bounds play and a basket would very nearly put the game in their back pockets. It was not to be, however, as they turned the ball over as they attempted to play it in.
“I look at that as something that was a big disappointment to me,” Bernhardt said. “That was my job to help them get that ball in and we were unable to do that.”
Davenport’s Brendan Chase was fouled and made the second of two free throws to make it 42-40; Andes’ attempt to in-bounds the ball was met by Davenport’s full-court press, and the long pass was tipped, resulting in another Andes possession beneath their own basket with five seconds to play. The Mountaineers once again struggled to get the ball in bounds and a jump ball was called, giving possession back to the Wildcats. Davenport’s Buddy Adam was fouled and went to the foul line, where he made one of two to make it 43-40; a Hail Mary-style three-point shot as time ran down was Andes’ final shot, but it fell short.
“The last 12.5 seconds were very hard to take,” Bernhardt said. “But the kids played a remarkable game.”
The Mountaineers were once again led by junior Eric Reed, who had 18 points and nine rebounds; 12 of his 18 points came from 3-pointers. Reed averaged 24 points a game during the postseason.
“He just played a remarkable sectional series of games offensively,” Bernhardt said. “He was very, very good.”
Cody Ruff added 10 points and Josh Bonifacic had five for Andes.
It was the third game in four days for the Mountaineers and the second consecutive game, as the Mountaineers had upset fourth-seeded Cherry Valley-Springfield on Monday.
“We were a little tense and I’m sure we were a little tired, but we talked about it before the game, that this was a mental game and they just had to block it off,” Bernhardt said. “It was like, ‘You’ve got a big chance here guys, just tough it out. Don’t mention you can’t do this, because you can.’”
Down by just two at halftime, Bernhardt said it didn’t take much motivation in the locker room to convince his team that victory was within reach.
“I walked into the locker room and heard them – they were incredulous, like, ‘We can beat these guys.’ And so when I first walked in I just said, ‘Are you having fun yet?’ And they were eager: this was our game to win or lose.”
The third quarter, as Bernhardt put it, was a “defensive war,” as Davenport tallied only six points and the Mountaineers scored five to make it 28-25 going into the final quarter.
And, despite a tough fourth quarter, the Mountaineers were unable to upset the top-seeded Wildcats.
“We were relentless,” Bernhardt said. “I’m convinced if the game had gone two more minutes, we would have won. We saw panic in the Davenport kids’ faces, and that’s not supposed to happen, and our guys recognized it and they didn’t panic. They kept coming back each and every time.”
The Mountaineers finish the season with an 11-9 overall record.
“I had talked about it before the game, and said that no matter what happened, they were going to look back on these four days as holding some of the most important moments of their time in high school, that very little would compare to these four days.”
It was the first trip to the sectional semifinal round since 1989 for the Mountaineers, who have appeared 11 times in the history of the school. Andes will lose four seniors to graduation.
“Although they were devastated at the end because we lost it, I know as each day goes by they are more appreciative of what they’ve done,” he said. “What they did was truly remarkable. No. 12 seeds don’t do what we did – that’s a huge deal.
“I’m just incredibly proud of the way they played and conducted themselves at the end of the year,” Bernhardt added. “It was just so wonderful to watch them mature in front of your eyes, as a team – to gel and come together as a team.”
Section IV play continues
The South Kortright boys, who defeated Davenaport in the Section IV Class D championship on Saturday, will play New York Mills on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Utica Proctor High School.
The Davenport girls, who defeated the Jefferson JayHawk girls in the Section IV title game, will face Hamilton at 1 p.m. on Saturday at SUNYIT, also in Utica.