By Rob Potter
GRAHAMSVILLE February 15, 2005 A standing room only crowd watched Friday night as the Fallsburg and Tri-Valley boys basketball teams staged another classic contest.
The bleachers were packed with vociferous parents and students cheering on both squads and several people who had arrived a few moments late were forced to stand in the corners of the Tri-Valley Central School gymnasium. But they didnt seem to mind, watching and cheering as intensely as those members of the crowd who had seats.
The dozens of fans saw the Bears and Comets give their all in a close, competitive Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division V game.
When the final buzzer sounded, T-V had defeated Fallsburg, 55-41.
With the victory, T-V improved its record to 6-13 overall and 4-2 in Division V play. Fallsburg fell to 2-14 and 0-6 in Division V.
Following the game, the T-V players and coaches received some good news. In another OCIAA Division V game that evening, Chester defeated Tuxedo, 54-44. The Chester victory created a three-way tie atop the division standings as Chester, T-V and Tuxedo all finished the regular season with 4-2 records within the division.
Unless all three athletic directors agree to declare the teams tri-champions, a playoff will determine the division winner. The names of the three schools would be written down on a piece of paper and placed into a hat. One piece of paper would then be pulled from the hat and that team would receive a bye.
The other two teams would play a game on a neutral court, with the winner advancing to face the bye team. The winner of that contest would capture the division crown.
T-Vs path to a possible division title playoff was not easy. Fallsburg got off to a quick start in Friday nights contest. David Anthony scored three baskets in the final two minutes of the first quarter to help Fallsburg take a 12-7 lead.
The second period featured three lead changes and four ties as the Bears and Comets tried to grab the games momentum.
The Bears were take control of the game in the third period. Powered by senior guard Travis Wolfe, sophomore forward Michael Kaplan and junior center Derek Smith, T-V outscored the Comets 17-7 in those eight minutes and held a 37-29 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Fallsburg closed to within seven points (38-31) when Adam Gold scored inside the lane with 7:20 remaining in the game.
But just over a minute later, T-Vs John Merchant converted a layup and subsequent foul shot after a Comet turnover to push the Bears lead to 41-31. Kaplan drained a baseline jump shot a minute and 20 seconds after that to give the Bears a 12-point lead at 43-31.
Kaplan finished the night as T-Vs leading scorer, pouring in 12 points. Merchant and Smith added nine points apiece and Wolfe netted eight points.
Leading the Fallsburg attack were Gold and Anthony. Gold recorded a double-double, scoring a game-high 17 points and grabbing 18 rebounds, while Anthony recorded 13 points.
We played a good game, Fallsburg Coach Paul Marsden said. We worked hard in the first half and took a little lead. These kids did an excellent job, they didnt give up.
We certainly didnt play like a 2 and 14 team tonight, Marsden added.
The veteran coach praised the T-V team. He noted that the Bears stepped up their defense in the third quarter, which led to turnovers by his team and easy baskets for the Bears.
[T-V Coach] Jason [Semo] is a very good coach and he should be proud of his players, Marsden said. They did a great job tonight.
Semo noted that his players did a great job of focusing on the game despite the distractions of having played Chester and Tuxedo on two of the previous four evenings and the fact that it was Senior Night. Prior to the game, the four T-V senior players Abram Leon, Matt Smith, Jon Waxman and Wolfe were honored for their accomplishments the past few seasons.
We had two huge wins in three days, Semo said of the Bears victories over Tuxedo last Monday night and Chester last Wednesday night. We beat Tuxedo and Chester and shot well in both games, so our legs were definitely tired tonight. But we had some great looks at the basket and played some great defense.
Semo wasnt surprised that his team stepped up its intensity after the intermission.
Weve been a second half team all season, he said. Im just so proud of my kids. They hustled and played with heart.
Semo also praised the Comets performance.
They played well, he said. Its Fallsburg/Tri-Valley, its always going to be a close game. Records mean nothing when these teams play each other.