Top spots in boys’ Delaware League hotly contended
By John Bernhardt
Up is down and down is up in Delaware League boys’ basketball this winter. The decade-long standings have shifted with new faces battling for room in Upper and Mountain Division races.
With at least five schools vying for top honors in the league, and several others trying to elbow their way into the hardwood conversation, local basketball fans have a virtual smorgasbord of “big game” choices sprinkled across the schedule almost every night of the season.
After a long basketball hibernation that spanned many years, last winter the Margaretville Blue Devils emerged to contend for the DL crown. The Blue Devils clinched the Upper Division title on the last day of the regular season and then toppled South Kortright in the league championship game played at SUNY Delhi.
Margaretville is waging a strong defense of its title, locked in a three-team fray for the Upper Division crown. The Blue Devils lost the inside power game of Mitch Hull and Ryan Sanford, but still produce some of the strongest guard play in the league.
Many MCS leaders
Junior Cooper Reither, always steady in the clutch and a gritty defender, returns to run the Blue Devils’ offense at point guard. The Margaretville MVP in two early season tournaments, senior Kyle Short is one of the premiere long-range shooters in the league and brings a determined defensive mindset to the floor this winter.
With his penetration to the basket, his ability to stop and pop at the drop of a dime, and his excellent court vision, junior Matt VanValkenburg has woven together a string of consistent offensive outings.
Whether or not the Blue Devils can secure back-to-back Mountain Division championships will have a lot to do with the play of the supporting cast. James Warner is one of the team’s best man-to-man defenders. Dylan Shaffer put together his best play of the season in the recent Downsville Tournament championship. Shaffer was selected to the all-tournament team. The recent outside shooting production of junior guard Yair Sanchez is also encouraging.
The ageless sideline strategist Lee Fisher has his Davenport Wildcats making noise again in the Mountain Division. The Wildcats are undefeated at 7-0 and the recent winners of the Laurens Tournament having downed the host school in the title match, 68-64, in overtime. Fisher has a lethal long-range specialist in Josh Davie who is among area leaders in three-point goals. Davie and Kyle Moorly both average near 15 points a game. Andre Dewitt also scores near double figures.
The stage for the next Upper Division showdown will be in Davenport on Thursday night when the Wildcats put their undefeated record on the line hosting Margaretville.
Off to a slower start than expected, don’t count out the Stamford Indians. The Indians dropped DL contests in South Kortright and Gilboa, but got a big boost when Gilboa edged Margaretville in double overtime just before the holiday break. The Indians should realize added value with the return of Matt Anderson who saw his first action of the season before the holidays. Greg Mattice has averaged just less than 20 points a game for the Indians. Stamford will meet both Davenport and Margaretville two times during the 2014 portion of its schedule.
Rams have ruled
For as long as almost anyone can remember, South Kortright has ruled the DL’s Mountain Division. The Rams’ supremacy is facing a stiff challenge from Gilboa this winter.
The Wildcats field one of the league’s most seasoned basketball squads. Gilboa’s big three: Zack Perry, Christian Cooper, and Hunter Grace are all third-year varsity seniors. Perry, perhaps the tallest guard in the league, can light it up from the outside and executes slashing drives to the basket. The league’s most polished big man, Cooper can score from inside or out, and Grace is noted for his rugged and consistent hardwood performance.
Gilboa mounting challenge
Gilboa has already knocked off Upper Division rivals Stamford and Margaretville, a huge asset in determining the Mountain Division standings. Teams only face opponents from the opposite division one time during the regular season, giving interleague contests added value.
On the other hand, South Kortright dropped interleague matches in Davenport and Margaretville endangering the Rams’ title string. Yet, anyone who follows local high school basketball knows that until they are toppled, Bob VanValkenburg and his South Kortright Rams remain kings of the mountain, the DL’s boys’ basketball Mountain Division, that is.