Hunter-Tannersville boys rally past Davenport for league title
By John Bernhardt
A trio of unsung heroes helped propel the Hunter-Tannersville Wildcats past Davenport during Monday night’s boys’ Delaware League playoff showdown in Stamford. H-T rallied past Davenport late in the fourth quarter to win a, seesaw battle, 39-36, and become the Upper Division Champions.
In winning the title, H-T earns the right to square off against undefeated Mountain Division Champion South Kortright in the league title bout Friday night at SUNY Delhi. Friday’s action is scheduled for 8 p.m. following the girls’ championship bout between Davenport and SK scheduled at 6 o’clock.
The pregame hype entering Monday’s winner-take-all showdown in Stamford centered on a talented trio from each Upper Division power. Delaware League fans speculated which player in each trio; Davenports inside force of Brandon Chase, outside shooting specialist Mike Ontl, and scrappy all-around performer Buddy Adam or Hunter’s explosive offensive machine Zack Clark, three-point extraordinaire Ryan Megnin and or inside/outside threat Derek Legg, would be the difference maker. Yet, when the dust had settled in Stamford it was three unsung heroes who had made the difference in tipping the scales toward H-T.
In Vinnie Rizzo, H-T has a traditional point guard. Rizzzo sets up the Wildcats’ offense, makes an occasional play to the basket, and plays scrappy basketball all over the court. Monday night, Rizzo added inside defensive prowess to his game. With Davenport center Brandon Chase having his way near the basket in the early going, Rizzo collapsed into the paint, and five times forced tie-ups or turnovers when the powerful post man lowered his hands with the ball. In addition, Rizzo drove the lane twice for critical scores in the second half.
The second unsung hero, Dillon Outrum, worked with Rizzo defending Chase on the inside in the second half. With just over four minutes left to play in the third quarter things looked bleak for Hunter when all-star strong forward Derek Legg picked up his fourth foul. Outrum came off the bench to try and shut down Chase and, with Rizzo’s assistance, the substitute forward turned in a dazzling display of inside defense.
Finally, H-T center Michael Courteney picked the championship stage for the biggest moment of his career. Known primarily for his inside defense and rebounding, it was Courteney’s foul- line jump shot that bounced around the rim and dropped through the hoop that sealed the deal for H-T. The Wildcats had taken a one-point lead, 37-36, when Ryan Megnin buried a three-point shot deep along the left baseline with 2:33 to play. For two torturous minutes neither team could find the range before Courteney’s huge shot helped decide the outcome.
The game was a seesaw affair the entire way. Chase hit the first two field goals of the game taking a pass from Matt Moore and converting an inside score and then nailing a short turnaround for a 4-0 Davenport lead. Derek Legg downed two foul shots getting H-T on the scoreboard. A long pass from Ontl to Moore ended in a Davenport lay-up giving the Wildcats back a four-point advantage.
Legg drove the paint and dished off to Zack Clark for Hunter’s second score. Nick Keator snuck behind the H-T defense on an out-of-bounds play for an inside score. But, Megnin converted a knifing drive through the lane from the left wing and Legg hit one of two foul shots to draw H-T within a point, 8-7, at the quarter break.
The pattern continued through the second quarter with H-T’s Clark and Davenport’s Moore making an impact near the basket on both ends of the court. Clark drove the lane or posted in, hitting three baskets in the quarter. Moore positioned himself perfectly at the blocks for inside dishes off penetration by Ontl. The half ended with Davenport clinging to a 17-15 advantage.
No more than four points separated the teams during the second half with Davenport holding a short lead most of the way. Hunter finally tied the score at 34-34 when Megnin used a screen to bury a three along the right wing.
Davenport found Keator all alone under the basket when the Hunter defense shadowed Chase on an out-of-bounds play. Keator’s soft banker gave his Wildcats back the lead with 3:33 to go.
But, Megnin answered one minute later with his second three-point goal in a row, this time along the left baseline. Courteney’s jumper ended the scoring for the night.
Poor foul shooting almost cost H-T when the Wildcats failed to convert two one-on-ones during the last 40 seconds. Davenport missed three tying attempts from long in the final 16 seconds.
Adam missed a three-point attempt with 15.4 seconds to play. The ball was knocked out of bounds under Davenport’s basket with only 6.9 left. A long inbounds pass found Adam, but Rizzo closed out hard forcing a pass to Moore along the left wing. Moore’s attempt was short, and Hunter was on its way to Friday’s league championship game in Delhi.