MCS boys hoops look to defend title

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By John Bernhardt
Winning the Delaware League championship last winter was a great feeling for the Margaretville boys’ basketball team. Margaretville lost their three “Bigs” from that championship team, but the shorter, quicker, faster 2013 version of Blue Devils is determined to keep that championship feeling alive this winter.
Gone to graduation is last season’s inside game. Mitch Hull, a first team Delaware League all-star, has taken his game to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. Ryan Sanford’s strong inside play, and Sean Gauntt’s inside depth, will be sorely missed.
“We’ll really miss the impact our ‘Bigs’ made inside around the basket,” noted Margaretville coach Jeremey Marks. “This year we’ll have a different look, but we’ll have the guys who can make up that difference,” Marks predicted.
To counter the lost inside play, Marks and his Blue Devils, plan on playing an up tempo game highlighting all kinds of pressing, pressure defenses. Defense and team rebounding will be the keys.
“We can’t afford a weak-link defender. All five guys have to be sound defenders on the basketball court. We can’t afford even one guy missing their defensive assignment,” explained Marks.
Senior Dylan Shaffer is part of Marks’ inside solution. The lean, wiry, senior will play dual inside/side roles this winter. Marks emphasized for the Blue Devils to contend, Shaffer needs to be very aggressive on the boards and defending around the basket.
“Dylan is a tough match-up for the traditional bigger post players in the league. He can knock down and outside shot and is very quick off the dribble which can be tough for a big guy to defend,” Marks spelled out.
James Warner, another senior, brings the same hustle and non-stop passion to the basketball court he showcased on the soccer field this fall. Marks notes that Warner plays full throttle 100 percent of the time. What Warner lacks near the basket in height he makes up with his determined, scrappy, aggressive style of play. Expect to see Warner man multiple spots on the floor this winter, including the post.
In some respects, Kyle Short is the engine that runs the Margaretville basketball machine.
“When he wants to be, Kyle has the potential to be one of the best defensive players in the league.” Marks makes no bones about the fact he needs Short to want to play defense all the time. Marks notes that Short anticipates well, is defending well from the help side and has improved his on-the-ball defense. Short, a senior, is one of the best long-ball shooting threats in the league.
Two additional seniors, Colby Russo and T.J. Haynes, are playing varsity ball for the first time.
“Colby and T.J. have important roles,” said Marks. Russo’s speed, athleticism and wingspan make a great defender at the top of presses. The senior speedster is aggressive to the basket and can hit an open outside shot. Haynes provides inside depth with some good back-to-the-basket and a turnaround jump shot at the low post.

All over the court
A versatile junior, Matt VanValkenburg could see time at every position on the floor. Trained as a point guard, a recent growth spurt has stretched VanValkenburg to six-feet, one-inch tall, necessitating a need for inside rebounding and post defense. On offense, VanValkenburg has long-range firepower, penetrates well and can shoot with both the right and left hand off the dribble.
“Matt has a multi-faceted approach to the game,” praised Marks, “the type of game that can fill a stat sheet in almost every category.”
The Blue Devils point guard, junior Cooper Reither, is a leader on the court. A tough perimeter defender, Reither is working hard on a lefthand handle, shoots well and directs the Margaretville offense.
“Cooper is not afraid of the moment,” Marks said in explaining the clutch play of his point guard.

Shooting guards
A pair of junior guards, Eric Mathiesen and Yair Sanchez, have mirror basketball profiles. Both bring nice outside shooting touches and an understanding of their roles to the hardwoods, and both show more confidence in the preseason. “Tough perimeter defense is a must for these guys,” notes Marks.
Another junior, Alex Serdiouk, can bang around the paint near the basket. A left-handed shooter, Serdiouk has the unorthodox inside moves that can often confuse defenses. Marks is counting on Serdiouk to hit the backboards hard in pursuit of rebounds and to fin
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ish his offensive moves around the hoop.
Marks expects a dogfight for the Delaware League crown this winter. Davenport and Stamford return strong teams in the Upper Division with Gilboa and South Kortright the preseason favorites on the Mountain Division side.
The Blue Devils will be tested early. Before Christmas, Margaretville hosts SK on Wednesday, Dec. 4, plays at Stamford on Friday, Dec. 6, includes both Stamford and Gilboa in the Booster Tournament, then plays Gilboa at home before the winter break.