By Rob Potter
GRAHAMSVILLE February 27, 2007 The Tri-Valley Bears basketball team put an exclamation point on their regular season Wednesday night.
T-V held an eight-point lead over visiting Fallsburg (5-11) at halftime and then outscored the Comets 20-11 in the third quarter. The Bears went on to record an 80-50 victory in the non-league game, which was played before a spirited, standing-room only crowd in the T-V gymnasium.
The win allowed T-V to finish the regular season with a 19-1 record, which is believed to be the best record in school history.
The Bears, whose only loss was at Sullivan West on February 5 in a non-league contest, are expected to be the No. 1 seed for next week’s Section IX Class C tournament. The seeding meeting was scheduled to be held last night.
T-V used its potent transition game to take control of Wednesday night’s contest in the third period. With 4:25 left, senior forward John Merchant soared to the basket for an easy two points on a fast break. Twenty seconds later, senior center Fred Moore put back a teammate’s miss on another fast break situation.
Less than 30 seconds after that hoop, Moore scored on a pass from Merchant on another break. Those baskets allowed the Bears to push their lead to 17 points (50-33) with 3:48 remaining in the quarter and forced Fallsburg Coach Pete Dworetsky to take a timeout in an attempt to slow down the Bears’ momentum.
Fallsburg’s Randy Gilmore scored with 2:30 left in the stanza to pull his team to within 15 points at 52-37. Unfortunately for Gilmore and his teammates, that was as close as they would be the rest of the game.
A trio of Bears Merchant, Moore and Bo Murphy scored in double figures. Moore led the way with a game-high 23 points, Merchant netted 22 points and Murphy had 10 points.
William Elberth and Dustin VanLieu each added nine points for T-V.
Three Fallsburg players also scored in double digits. Daquan Davis had a team-best 15 points, while Darius Buckner recorded 12 points and Michael Melko registered 11 points, which included a pair of 3-point shots.
Colin Whitaker also swished a pair of 3-pointers for the Comets. He finished with eight points.
T-V Coach Brian Tingley was happy with the win and that his players followed the game plan.
When the Bears gathered in the weight room before the contest to talk strategy, Tingley wrote his keys to the game on the chalkboard. The first was “make the easy pass.”
“I told them to make the simple pass,” he said. “We are playing Fallsburg in a packed gym, so there’s no need to show off.”
Tingley was also pleased that the Bears committed just 12 turnovers in the contest, which was one of their lowest totals of the season.
Another point Tingley stressed to his team is the fact that the Comets and Bears have developed a great rivalry during the past few seasons.
“I told them it’s still Fallsburg against Tri-Valley,” he commented. “We’ve won 18 games and they’ve won five, but they want to beat us and make it six wins.”
Dworetsky noted that his team was still feeling the effects of a Tuesday night game versus S.S. Seward. The Comets defeated the visiting Spartans, 70-49, in the non-league affair, but Dworetsky said that his players expended a lot of energy by using a full-court press for much of the game.
“We didn’t have our shooting legs like we did last night,” he said. “Last night, our 3-point shots were falling and they weren’t tonight.
“But that’s not to take anything away from Tri-Valley,” Dworetsky added. “They are a great team. They got their looks at the basket tonight and made their shots. I wish Coach Tingley and the whole team the best of luck in sectionals.”
Dworetsky noted that the game was the final scholastic contest for the Comets’ three seniors Tex Callender, Kenny Corley and Chris York. He praised all three of them for the dedication, heart and perseverance they have shown over the past few seasons.
Dworetsky is already looking ahead to the 2007-2008 season.
“We have five kids coming back who will form a good nucleus for next year’s team,” he said. “I can’t wait for November.”
Notes: Prior to the game, T-V honored its senior basketball players and cheerleaders. The five senior players Kevin Delaney, Elberth, Michael Kaplan, Merchant and Moore and the three senior cheerleaders Brian Knapp, Monica Lee and Christine Seibert presented flowers to their mothers.
After the game, Tingley and the Bears cut down the nets from both baskets to celebrate their 19-1 record and winning the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV title.