Margaretville JV girls wind division, play SK for league title

By John Bernhardt
A nearly full-court underhand pass. A three-point field goal that started with the shooter’s back to the basket. Both played critical roles in the unprecedented rise of the Margaretville Junior Varsity Girls’ Basketball team to the Delaware League’s Championship game. Margaretville will square off against South Kortright on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. on their home court in the opening round of a junior varsity championship doubleheader.

Miraculous comeback
With seven seconds to play in Margaretville’s fourth game of the season playing in the league championship game wasn’t even an afterthought. The Blue Devils were 0-3, trailed by a point, and a Hunter-Tannersville player was shooting a foul shot. What followed was a miraculous sequence of events that landed Margaretville in tonight’s title game.

When H-T missed the foul shot, Margaretville’s Sammy Hunt grabbed the rebound. Hunt took one dribble out of a crowd under the basket and spotted Cora Bruno on the offensive end of the court beyond the three-point arc at the top of the key. Still on the move, Hunt lifted a high underhand, full court pass. In a single motion, almost without looking at the hoop, Bruno fielded the pass, turned and fired. Her high shot banked through the nets, and the Margaretville girls had won their first game of the year.

“Without that pass, without that shot, we wouldn’t be here,” smiled Beth Johnson, the Margaretville coach.

The amazing pass and catch sparked a basketball Renaissance for the Blue Devil JV. The Blue Devils won two of their next three games and headed into the holiday break at 3-4. No one was thinking Crossover Championships.

Those thoughts surfaced after the holiday break when the girls continued their winning ways. Johnson began to seriously consider the idea when her team upended H-T a second time, this time on the Wildcats’ court. The win locked the two teams in a first place tie, and the Margaretville coach could feel her team’s confidence surge.

Another key contest
“That second Hunter game was another turning point. We had three girls foul out and still managed to keep it together and find a way to win the game.”

Johnson’s charges went 7-3 after Christmas, finishing 10-7 overall and 9-4 on the top of the Upper Division. As a result, the Blue Devil junior varsity squad will make the school’s first ever appearance in the league girls’ JV championship game.

Johnson explained that girls’ junior varsity championship play is still relatively new in the Delaware League. When Johnson played hoops at Margaretville in the mid-1990s there were no girls’ junior varsity teams. Schools fielded modified teams covering grades seven, eight and nine and varsity squads at 10, 11, and 12. The Margaretville coach, who has coached the Blue Devil juniors for the last 12 or 13 years, believes girls ‘JV play may have started in the late-1990s.

A young team
Johnson has a young squad with only three sophomores. Hunt, the team’s center, is the top rebounder and a reliable receiving target when Margaretville inbounds the ball. The Blue Devil center has worked hard to use the glass on the offensive side of the court.

Kate Short, another sophomore, manages the Blue Devils’ game as the point guard.
“Kate has done a great job controlling the game,” praised Johnson. “She sees the open girls, pushes the ball when it needs to be pushed, and slows the pace when we need to slow down.”

The final sophomore, Isiss Orrego is a guard who plays an important role off the bench. Orrego, a strong defender, provides quality minutes when Johnson needs to give her starters a breather.
The number two guard, Bruno is Margaretville’s biggest three-point threat. Bruno and Elia Tanzer are fast, pick off a lot of steals, and often run the floor ahead of a retreating defense.

Help from freshmen
Cora Martin and Pauline Sealtiel, two freshmen forwards, do a nice job grabbing rebounds off the boards. Johnson counts on Martin to make defensive stops and applauds Sealtiel’s crafty defensive play in the paint.

Another strong rebounder, Alana Moskowitz plays position basketball and bails a lot of teammates out because you can count on her to get where she is supposed to be. Jacinta Updyke, a guard, works hard and supports the team in however she’s asked.
Johnson cites team chemistry as a major asset. “With these girls, it’s not about who makes the basket, it’s about making the basket,” says Johnson. Strong defense is another strength Johnson notes.

Tough SK foe
In SK, Margaretville faces a strong opponent with girls who move well on both ends of the floor. To make a run for the title, Johnson knows passing is a key. “We have to pass the ball well,” emphasizes Johnson. “Poor passes will get picked.”

Johnson knows SK is a good shooting team, and understands her Blue Devils can’t allow the Rams to get second chances.

Perhaps playing on their home court will be an advantage for Margaretville.
“Our girls love to play on our court. The girls take a lot of pride in playing at home and work hard to do well,” finished the Margaretville coach.