Area teams gear up for hoop sectionals

By John Bernhardt
Several local high school basketball teams took advantage of a new experiment in the Delaware League this season. Each year, Delaware League teams hold one game in their schedule to cover the possibility of qualifying for the Crossover Championship Game. Two teams play in the title game and nine teams end up one game short. Making matters worse, teams qualifying to take part in the Section IV playoffs but not participating in the league title game, can sometimes have up to two weeks off between their final regular season game and their opening round contest.
Trying to address these issues, it was suggested that teams in the Mountain Division of the league square off with teams holding a similar place in the Upper Division standings. For example, Jefferson finished with the second-best record in the Mountain Division Girls’ standings and Margaretville held the same spot in the Upper Division. The two would play a contest during championship week. In addition, third-, fourth- and fifth-place teams could also compete.
The idea was discussed and accepted on a voluntary basis this winter. The Margaretville girls’ team elected to participate and squared off against Jefferson at Stamford on Thursday night. Ironically, Margaretville drew Jefferson for their first-round opponent and will return to Stamford on Wednesday, Feb. 24, to take on the JayHawks once again. Both the Andes girls’ and boys’ teams also chose to participate in this year’s experiment. The Andes girls faced Stamford at Stamford and the boys traveled to Tannersville to take on the Wildcats.

Jefferson 34, Margaretville 29 (Girls)
With back-to-back contests on tap, both Jefferson and Margaretville used the contest to experiment with various offensive and defensive plays sets. Jefferson looked strong during first half action racing to a 21-9 lead by the intermission. Chelsea Martin downed nine points in the half to lead the JayHawks. “Jefferson moved the ball well against our zones. They have some good outside shooters,” noted Margaretville coach Kyle Holden.
Holden’s charges scrambled back into the game during the second half. With Erica Faulkner and Michelle O’Rieley leading the way, the Blue Devils made a run of it. The Margaretville duo had all their team’s points in the third quarter as the Blue Devils outscored Jefferson, 8-7, to shave a point off the JayHawk’s advantage.
Margaretville doubled Jefferson’s output, 12-6, in the final frame, but it was not enough as Jefferson held on to take home a 34-29 victory.
Faulkner led the Blue Devils scoring netting 18 points. The senior guard also pulled down 11 rebounds. O’Rieley added nine points and nine rebounds for Margaretville.
Holden has to be optimistic with his team’s steady play during the second half of Thursday’s contest. Even so, the Margaretville coach was cautious when discussing his team’s upcoming Section IV opener. “We need to have everybody involved Wed-nesday night,” noted Holden. “Jefferson is a strong rebounding team that pushes the ball up the court. For us to have a shot, all facets of our game must be in full gear.”

Andes 54, Stamford 49 (Girls)
In attempting to contain Andes’ Mariah Ruff and Rachel Andrews, Stamford decided to concede the wing shot against their 2-3 zone early in Thursday’s girls’ basketball contest in Stamford. Andes took full advantage of the choice as Karli Tait lit up the scoreboard from the wing. Tait scored 13 of Andes’ 15 first period points. The Mountaineers took a slim 15-13 lead at the quarter break.
As the Stamford defense shifted to cover Tait, Ruff and Andrews had a little bit of room to operate. Ruff scored five points and Andews six as Andes outscored Stamford 13-9 to stretch their advantage to 28-22 at the half.
Andrews kept the offensive pressure on by scoring from the inside during the third frame. Andes’ senior center scored nine points to help the Mountaineers withstand a Stamford charge. The Indians outgunned the visitors 18-16 during the frame, to draw closer at 42-38 entering the final eight minutes of play.
With five girls scoring, Andes used balanced scoring to put the game away in the final period. Andrews and Tait finished the night with 17 points each. Ruff added 14.
Marlann Hinckley had a huge night for Stamford. The point guard scored 22 points, sinking three three-point goals and going seven for 10 from the foul line. Sommer Gaddis pulled down 12 rebounds for Stamford.

Andes 59, Hunter-Tannersville 45 (Boys)
Senior Josh Bonifacic waited until his last regular season game to record his all-time high scoring effort. The Andes strong forward was hot from inside and out to log a career-high 20 points leading Andes to an impressive win over Hunter-Tannersville.
Andes started slowly yielding the first eight points of the game and trailing 11-2. From that point through the end of the third period, the Mountaineers pieced together their most impressive basketball run of the season, outscoring H-T, 43-16. The Mountaineers launched the run finding Eric Reed open around the foul line area and the junior responded, hitting three jump shots and nailing two of two from the foul line to bring his team back in the opening frame. The late Andes first quarter surge pushed the visitors out in front, 16-15, by the quarter break.
Bonifacic hit a three-point and a two-point goal to help Andes stretch their lead in the second frame. Russell Koronowski added two field goals as Andes outscored H-T, 14-8, to take a 30-23 lead at the half.
Intense defensive pressure limited H-T to only one field goal and two foul shots in the third quarter. Bonifacic had a big frame for Andes adding eight more points to his team-high tally. Cody Ruff buried two field goals for the Mountaineers as the visitors opened up a 46-27 lead at the break.
H-T didn’t quit. The Wildcats clamped on a tight full-court press that forced several Andes turnovers. The Wildcats clawed their way back to within seven points but an Eric Reed three-point goal thwarted the rally with just over two minutes to play. Andes was sizzling from the foul line hitting six of six charity shots down the stretch to guarantee the victory. Andes went 12 of 13 from the stripe on the night.
Bonifacic finished his showcase night with 20 points, 14 rebounds and three assists. Reed had a well-balanced effort for Andes scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Cody Ruff added 11 points, dished out five assists and had four steals for ACS.