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Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

UNDER PRESSURE: Billy Alm of Pine Plains (23) puts up a shot as Tri-Valley’s Arthur Felder tries to defend in Tuesday’s Class C quarterfinal. Visiting Pine Plains won 64-61 in Grahamsville.

Tri-Valley Eliminated from Sectionals

By Ted Waddell
GRAHAMSVILLE — March 3, 2000 -- The fourth-seeded Tri-Valley Bears were eliminated from the race to the Section IX—Class C championship in Tuesday night’s quarterfinals, as they were defeated 64-61 by the fifth-seeded Bombers of Pine Plains.
Up until the final quarter, it looked like the home team hoopsters were going to advance to the semis. In the opening period, Tri-Valley outhustled the Bombers 18-11. Although the team from Pine Plains started to catch up in the next chapter, the Bears carried a 33-28 halftime lead into the locker room.
In the third period, it was nip and tuck, as the visitors outgunned the Bears 19-18.
Then came the “fatal fourth,” and the Pine Plains bucketeers out scored the Bears 18-9.
In the first half, Michael Stephenson scored 16 points. But in the second half, Bombers coach John Soratto lined up his gun sights on Stephenson and put his “main defensive guy” Travis Simmons up to the task of shutting down Stephenson’s offensive strikes.
“I knew if he had double figures in the second half, we didn’t have a chance,” said Soratto.
The strategy worked, as Stephenson was held to two points after the break.
The boys from Pine Plains (11–9) tied it up 56-56 with 5:04 remaining on the game clock. At about the three minute mark, they took a one point lead. Although the Bears (15–6) tied it up at 59-59 on a shot from the free throw line by Arthur Felder, the Bombers got several chances in the final seconds at the foul line and effectively put the finishing touches on the game: at the 42-second mark, Billy Alm sunk a pair followed by another with 23 seconds left in the game to put Pine Plains up 63-59.
A bucket by Kevin Molloy gave the Bears a glimmer of hope as they closed to within two (63-61).
In the closing seconds, the Bombers’ Tom Shanley sank a free throw to finalize the score.
Three Bears had double digits: Stephenson (18 points plus 15 rebounds), Durk Pearston (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Jason Mizrahi (12 points, seven assists).
For the Bombers: Billy Alm (27) and Tom Shanley (21). Pine Plains racked up four 3-pointers.
At the free throw line: TV 7/10 (70 percent), PP 14/24 (58 percent).
“I liked the outcome,” said Soratto. “Tri-Valley is a tough team. It was a game that anybody could have won. Jason Mizrahi, Durk Pearston and Mike Stephenson gave us fits all night right down to the end. I didn’t think we were going to be able to hang onto the lead once we got it.
“We had to play well to beat this team,” he added. “They have a heck of a team.”
Jason Semo, first-year coach of the Tri-Valley boy’s varsity basketball team, thought the final game of the Bears season was a defensive battle. “Both teams came to play, and it was a battle of who was going to get the loose ball,” he said.
According to Semo, it was a successful season.
“They worked hard and showed a lot of character,” he said. “They were a great team to work with [because former longtime coach] Andy Taggart handed me a great team, and a lot of the credit goes to him for getting the guys ready for this moment.”
The Bears will be losing seven seniors to graduation: Ryan Bernard, David Delade, Arthur Felder, Jason Mizrahi, Kevin Molloy, Adam Moore and Michael Stephenson.
Returning next year are: Gary Buley, Billy Gorman, Josh Lowitz, James Paul, Durk Pearston, Darren Rowen and Zack Serrano.
“The guys who are coming back next season didn’t get a lot of ink this year, but next year will definitely get their time,” said Semo. “I look forward to a lot of speed coming back, and we may actually be a quicker team next year. I’m very hopeful about next year. This was my first season, and I have a lot to learn.”
Tuesday night’s game was Michael Stephenson’s 42nd consecutive varsity game. As a third-year varsity player, it marked his first as a team tri-captain.
“The season went well,” he said after the game. “It was a new coach and everything. At the beginning of the season, it was kind of iffy as to how it was going to go, but I was very impressed with how he handled us.
“We had some ups and downs, and every game surprised us. We played good, but towards the end, we just couldn’t grab it,” Stephenson added
Fellow tri-captain Jason Mizrahi summed up his feelings about the season.
“We met our goal this year by winning the last WSL title,” he said. “We’re very proud of that.”

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