By Rob Potter
ROSCOE December 29, 2006 The Roscoe Blue Devils opened up a big lead early in Thursday night’s non-league basketball game against the visiting Hancock Wildcats.
But the Blue Devils had to withstand a second-half comeback by the visitors from Delaware County in order to record a 52-46 victory.
At the end of the third period, Roscoe (3-5) enjoyed a 41-27 lead.
However, Hancock (2-3) outscored the Blue Devils 19 to 11 in the fourth quarter to keep the outcome of the game in doubt until the final seconds.
With about 10 seconds remaining, a long 3-point shot by Hancock’s John Marino bounced off the rim. Teammate Chris Hallstead quickly grabbed the rebound and put the ball back up.
Hallstead’s successful shot pulled the Wildcats to within five points at 51-46 with 6.9 seconds on the game clock and Hancock immediately called a timeout.
Following the timeout, a foul was called on a Blue Devil player, which gave Hancock another possession. But the Wildcats’ subsequent shot was off the mark and in the scramble for the rebound, Roscoe’s Justin Haas gained control of the basketball and was fouled.
With 1.4 seconds displayed on the scoreboard, Haas made the first of his two free throws to seal the Blue Devils’ six-point victory.
Thanks to excellent outside shooting by junior guard Jayson Harris, Roscoe led by 12 points at halftime and extended its advantage to as many as 20 points in the third quarter.
But a determined Wildcats squad, led by Marino, who scored a game-high 25 points, stormed back in the final moments.
Saad Majeed and Aaron Gorshack added six points and five points, respectively, for Hancock.
Harris made five 3-point shots in the contest and finished with a team-best 24 points.
Haas recorded 10 points and Cody DeRosia had nine points for the Blue Devils.
“We just didn’t play well in the first half,” Hancock Coach Keith Esolen said. “We came back and played much better in the second half, but we lost it in the first half.”
Esolen noted that his squad’s slow start in the opening quarters may have been the result of the team’s lopsided loss to fellow Section IV team Unadilla Valley the previous night.
“But I’m very proud of my players tonight, they kept hustling throughout the game and didn’t quit,” he said.
Roscoe Coach Fred Ahart also took note of the Wildcats’ strong second-half performance.
“Certainly Hancock deserves credit for their comeback and they way they worked hard,” he said. “They outscored us in the fourth quarter, and gained eight points on us.”
The veteran coach also pointed out that of the 19 points the Wildcats posted on the scoreboard in those final eight minutes of play, Marino scored 14 of them.
Although the Blue Devils converted 11 of their 23 free throws on the evening, they were just 5-of-18 at the line during the fourth period.
“Clearly the team with the lead must make its foul shots in the last quarter to maintain the advantage,” Ahart commented.
Aside from the fourth quarter free throws, Ahart was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I thought our guys played hard and they were able to handle the late comeback by Hancock,” he said. “We look to improve in each game we play and I think we are doing that.”