Gilboa boys edge Blue Devils in double-overtime; Margaretville and Roxbury girls post wins

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By John Bernhardt
It was a basketball chess match last Wednesday, the latest is a series of intriguing hardwood match-ups between two Delaware League competitors. If basketball allowed a stalemate, that’s likely where a contest between Margaretville and Gilboa’s boys’ teams would conclude. But, there are no ties on the hardwoods, so it was Gilboa’s turn as the Wildcats edged Margaretville, 63-58, in a double-overtime thriller.
It was a contest loaded with riveting gambits, fascinating tactics, gripping blitzes, and a game where every move was critical. Checkmate wouldn’t be determined until almost 39:53 minutes had been played, and Gilboa’s Hunter Grace had dropped in two foul shots with just 6.8 seconds remaining.
No more than six points ever separated the two squads, with Margaretville grabbing a 33-27 lead midway through the third quarter. In retrospect, the Blue Devils squandered their best opportunity to create distance from their guests earlier in the game. Gilboa was playing without senior forward Kevin Dudley, so when Hunter Grace was hobbled with a leg injury early in the second period, things got a little sticky. Tack on foul troubles for Wildcat center Christian Cooper later in that frame, and Gilboa was desperately short-handed. Yet, somehow the gritty Wildcats survived, only trailing 23-20 at the half.

Building a lead
Leading 28-27 in the third, Kyle Short knocked down a three-pointer then fed Yair Sanchez for an eight-foot jumper along the baseline to give the Blue Devils the six-point lead. Gilboa countered immediately with a Cooper outlet finding Zack Perry who dished to Grace for a fast- break basket. When Benjamin Standart drove into the middle of the lane and used a spin move to shake free, his short jumper knotted the score once again, this time at 33-33.
Matt VanValkenburg’s driving basket and foul shot nosed Margaretville in front again. Perry answered with a four-foot hang time leaner just before the third-period horn with Margaretville hanging on by a thread, 36-35. With Gilboa pounding its host on the backboards, four VanValkenburg steals in the third frame were pivotal in helping the Blue Devils stay ahead of the pack.
Gilboa would finally inch in front with 6:06 remaining in regulation time when Grace cut through the middle of the lane converting a running banker. Grace’s basket was off a chain reaction rarely seen in a high school basketball game, as the lead would change hands on the next six consecutive scoring possessions. Kyle Short would bury two key field goals for Margaretville and Gilboa’s Cooper would answer with four points of his own during the scoring volley.

Wildcats surge
It was two Cooper foul shots that put Gilboa in front, 45-44 with 2:23 to play. A Cooper Reither foul shot tied the game at 45-45 with 1:22 remaining. With both teams showing signs of stress and turning the ball over, that’s where the score would stay, forcing overtime.
It looked like Margaretville’s scrappy little guard Yair Sanchez might be the hero of the night early in the first overtime. Sanchez came off the bench to bury a three-point score from the corner, giving his team a 48-45 lead.
After back-to-back inside scores by Cooper, his second basket over a Margaretville triple team, Gilboa led, 49-48. But, Dillon Shaffer found Sanchez for a short jumper on the baseline and Margaretville was in front again, 50-49 with 1:45 to play.

MCS back on top
A Short jumper at the top of the key with 1:15 to play gave the Blue Devils a three-point advantage, but when Grace banked home a lay-up with 0:57 on the clock, only one point separated the combatants.
VanValkenburg calmly stepped to the foul line and hit both ends of a one and one with just 30.3 second to play, and it looked as if the Blue Devils might survive the scare. But, Perry, who had a monster performance for the visitors, nailed a three-point goal with 19 seconds on the clock and the teams were tied again at 54-54, forcing a second OT.
Reither sank two Blue Devil foul shots, Perry hung in the air downing a jumper in the middle of the lane, Reither converted a runner driving the middle of the lane, then Perry took a defensive rebound coast-to-coast for a score. Incredibly the game was still tied, 58-58, with just 1:16 remaining.

Turnovers hurt
It was two Margaretville turnovers and five Gilboa foul shots that would finally put matters to rest. Cooper hit one of two shots from the line to put Gilboa in front to stay with 48.4 to play.
After a Blue Devil turnover, the turning point came when the Wildcats attempted to counter Margaretville’s full court press with a touchdown pass to a breaking Cooper. The pass was thrown too long and appeared as if it might fly out of bounds, but Cooper ran it down, his toes just inches from the end line, then dribbled backwards back into the lane. As Cooper started to rise upward for a shot, a Blue Devil defender racing to the paint bumped him drawing a whistle. Cooper hit both free throws.
A turnover cost the home team their final chance to tie. Margaretville was forced to foul with Grace dropping in both free shots, and Gilboa escaped with a 63-58 victory.
Rebounding would play an important role in the final outcome with Gilboa holding a 20-rebound advantage off the boards.
The speedy Perry took game-scoring honors with 23 points for Gilboa. Cooper added 15 and Grace 12 for the Wildcats.
Margaretville had four players in double figures. VanValkenburg netted 17, Short 13, Reither 12, and Sanchez 10 for the Blue Devils.
Up next for the Blue Devils is the Downsville Tournament on Friday and Saturday nights, Dec. 27 and 28.

Margaretville girls
With four girls scoring, Margaretville raced past Andes, 12-4, in the first quarter en route to a 42-28 victory in the consolation game of the MCS Booster Club Tournament Thursday night. Cora Bruno and Kate Short nailed three-point goals, Sami Hunt scored twice from inside, and Annette Hogan hit a short jumper during the Blue Devils’ opening round salvo.

Mountaineers hang tough
Some balanced scoring of their own helped Andes battle back in the second period when the Mountaineers outscored their hosts, 11-6, to close within 18-15 by the half. A pair of buckets by Shianne Coss, an all-tournament selection, who led the visitors with 13 points, single baskets by Adriel Grapes, Taylor Day, and Cheyenne Weaver and a Cassandra Storey foul shot put the Mountaineers back in the game.
Hogan, who would be selected to the all-tournament team, came alive in the third period, erasing any chance of an Andes upset. Hogan scored nine points in the frame with Bruno adding five and Hunt four, as Margaretville outscored their guests 18-3.
Hunt would lead Margaretville scorers with 12 points with Hogan and Bruno following close behind with 11 and 10 respectively.
The win improves Margaretville’s record to 2-3 on the season. The Blue Devils will be back on the hardwoods facing Hunter-Tannersville on January 6.

Roxbury girls
Roxbury scored 18 unanswered points then coasted to a 44-21 victory in Windham last week. Stacey Sprague continued her impressive inside play, scoring a game-high 15 points for the Rockets. The Roxbury sophomore center has consistently logged double-digit scoring efforts averaging 16.3 points per game and helping her team to a 3-2 start on the season.
Teammate Shannon Sprague goes into the holiday break with back-to-back double-digit scoring performances, another positive sign for the young Rockets’ squad. Sprague netted 10 points in Windham.
Roxbury returns to the Stamford Tournament over the winter break with games scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Dec. 27 and 28.