Blue Devils hold off South Kortright by 3 points

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By John Bernhardt
The box scores tell only part of the story of what happens on the hardwoods at a basketball game. There is more to a basketball contest than who scored the points.

Sometimes a player with very few or even no points on their ledger is a difference maker. That was the case in the Margaretville Blue Devil’s home opener last Wednesday.

When South Kortright’s Ty Lamport hit Dan Nelson cutting hard down the middle of the lane for an easy third-period basket, the Rams opened a 29-24 lead over host Margaretville and seemed headed for a win. Little that had happened defensively or off the backboards at that time signaled that the Blue Devils could slow down their Delaware League rivals.

That is until Colby Russo entered the game for Margaretville. Russo’s long wing span and combustible energy at the top of the Blue Devils’ press ignited passionate play from his teammates and forced SK to pick up their temperature a few degrees, just enough to throw off their rhythm. “Colby was the key,” Margaretville coach Jeremey Marks said breathing a sigh of relief when explaining his Blue Devils 44-41 victory.

“With Colby playing as hard as he did, the guys seemed to say if he can do it so can we.”

Russo would hit only one shot on the night but his intense defensive play helped force 10 second-half SK turnovers.

Cooper Reither of Margaretville: Photo by Dick SanfordCooper Reither of Margaretville: Photo by Dick SanfordThe third quarter also saw junior forward Matt VanValkenburg come alive. VanValkenburg had a hand in 10 of the Blue Devils’ 12 points in the quarter, helping his team make up the difference at 31-31 heading into the home stretch. Four hard drives to the basket earned him points. The lanky forward hit a shot from the corner and fed Cooper Reither on the baseline for two more. Russo’s offensive rebound put back was the only other Margaretville score.
Ryan Sluiter hit one of two foul shots at the start of the fourth quarter nudging SK ahead, 32-31, but a Kyle Short three-pointer from the top of the key put Margaretville ahead to stay. Reither drove the lane for two, stretching Margaretville’s lead to 36-32. Griff Metzko’s running eight-footer drew SK within two, before Reither answered again with a three-point bomb.

The teams traded baskets with Margaretville’s Dillon Shaffer putting back a missed shot, and Nelson knocking down a fade-away jumper from inside for SK. When VanValkenburg cracked the SK full court press hitting Reither for a touchdown bomb stretching the Margaretville lead to 43-36, and with less than 60 seconds on the clock, things looked secure for the Blue Devils.

But Lamport stopped, popped, and was fouled seconds later, his foul shot closing the gap to 43-39. The Blue Devils sandwiched a missed pair of one-on-one foul shots around a Lamport rebound basket with Margaretville now clinging to a 43-41 advantage.

SK had the ball and a final chance to tie or win the game but could not convert. Kyle Short hauled down the missed shot, a team-high sixth rebound, dribbled out from under the basket then played keep away with Reither who was fouled with two seconds left. Reither dropped in the first of two shots to seal the deal.

Reither finished with a game-high 20 points. VanValkenburg threw in 12 more.

Thursday begins the boys’ side of the Booster Club Tournament with Stamford and Gilboa squaring off at 5:30 p.m. Margaretville hosts Roscoe at the completion of that game.