Blue Devils stun Stamford with miraculous rally
By John Bernhardt
They are the Delaware League’s Cardiac Kids, a basketball team associated with nail biting, heart thumping, foot stomping hardwood theatrics. In Margaretville’s six DL contests to date, three have been decided on the game’s last possession, two have gone into overtime, and one took two extra periods of play.
As madcap endings go, none could be crazier than last Wednesday’s finish against Stamford. With just 13 seconds left on the clock, and trailing by six points, Margaretville stormed from behind to send the game into overtime, then won the contest, 67-64, when Cooper Reither’s three-point bomb dropped though the nets with three seconds left in the added period.
It was wild. It was wacky. It was wondrous for the Blue Devils’ fans. The improbable rally was ignited by a Cooper Reither three-point goal from the lefthand corner. Attempting to stay one step ahead of Margaretville defenders, a Stamford ball handler drove the ball forward into the frontcourt and tried to kick the ball out to a teammate waiting near the sideline. The pass went awry and with three seconds left, Margaretville regained possession, inbounding the ball from the backcourt near the midcourt line.
Stamford used a timeout to strategize and put in motion a risky basketball gambit. The Indians still had two fouls to give. Translated, that means if the Blue Devils were not shooting the basketball, the Indians could foul a Blue Devil player possessing the ball without the Margaretville player being awarded a foul shot. “Catch and foul” would whittle a second off the clock with the Blue Devils forced to inbound from the sideline once again. A second “catch and foul” would almost erase all chances of a Blue Devils’ victory.
But, giving fouls in the closing seconds with the game on the line is a very delicate maneuver. Split-second timing is critical. Even professional basketball players have been known to get it wrong with the game’s outcome hanging in the balance.
Wednesday night, the inbounds pass was received by Matt VanValkenburg a few steps in front of the midcourt line. VanValkenburg put the ball on the floor to advance it closer to the arc and to gather lower body power to launch an improbable game-tying shot. The Stamford foul should have occurred on VanValkenburg’s dribble. It was late. Instead, the foul was committed as VanValkenburg made his desperation heave.
Foul. Six-tenths of one second remained on the clock. Because VanValkenburg launched the ball from behind the three-point arc, three foul shots were awarded.
Need three to tie
There was a mountain of pressure on the Blue Devils’ junior forward as he stepped to the line. His first shot swished through the nets. With everyone in the gymnasium on the edge of their seats, VanValkenburg knocked down his second shot. Trying to freeze the Blue Devils’ forward, to make him think about the enormity of his challenge over an entire timeout, Stamford called its final time. VanValkenburg moved to the line, took a huge breath of air, and dropped his third shot through the nets tying the score at 58-58.
With 3:57 of the 4:00 minute overtime gone, the contest was still undecided, knotted in a thorny, 64-64 tie. Cooper Reither, James Warner and Dylan Shaffer had all hit pressure two-point field goals in the overtime. Greg Mattice scored twice and Glen Cioccari once for Stamford.
It was Reither who would answer the bell. A three-point bomb, the Blue Devils’ point guard’s fourth of the game, just in front of the final horn was the game winner.
The Margaretville bench had much to say about the game’s final outcome. Half of the Blue Devils 32-point, first-half output came from the bench, a huge factor in deciding the outcome of the game. Starting forward Dylan Shaffer also played his hand in the first-half production, scoring 11 of his 13 points by intermission. Margaretville led 32-25 at the half.
A 10-4 Stamford rebounding advantage in the third period helped erase the Blue Devils’ lead. The Mattice brothers, Geoff and Greg, made their presence felt around the basket, scoring 11 points between them as the Indians outscored their hosts, 18-11, sending the teams into the final period dead even at 43-43.
Greg Mattice took game-scoring honors with 23 points. His brother, Geoff, added 12, Matt Armstrong 11 and Greg Keating eight for the Indians.
Reither paced a balanced Blue Devil attack with 14 points with Dylan Shaffer close behind with 13. Kyle Short netted nine, VanValkenburg and Yair Sanchez eight, Alex Serdiouk six, Eric Mathiesen five, and James Warner four, every point a necessity in Margaretville’s incredible victory.
Burning the twines
Margaretville used the long ball to offset a huge Stamford foul shooting advantage. The Indians went 17-of-22 from the line with the Blue Devils sinking just VanValkenburg’s three-of a team six shots. The Blue Devils downed 12 three-point goals against only one for Stamford to make up the difference.
Friday, the Blue Devils long ball fireworks continued in a 63-42 victory over Downsville. Margaretville was scorching hot, burning the twines with 12 more three-point goals, three more than the two-point variety. The Blue Devils also went a sizzling nine-of-10 from the foul line.
Kyle Short buried six shots from behind the arch netting a game-high 20 points. Reither netted 15 points, three field goals of the long ball variety. Alex Serdiouk scored a season-high 11 points and VanValkenburg added 10.
The Blue Devils are now 8-2 on the season and play Thursday on the road in Roxbury.