By Rob Potter
GRAHAMSVILLE March 2, 2007 Tri-Valley Coach Brian Tingley admitted that he was a bit nervous heading into Wednesday night’s Section IX Class C boys’ basketball semifinal game against visiting Chester.
Tingley knew that the Bears had defeated the Hambletonians in both of the Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division V games the teams played during the regular season. But Tingley also knows that it is extremely difficult for one basketball team to defeat another squad three times in one season.
However, the T-V players calmed their coach’s nerves once the game began.
The Bears raced out to a 9-2 lead in the opening four minutes. T-V (20-1) proceeded to take a 36-20 advantage at halftime and went on to post a 66-46 victory over the Hambletonians.
The Bears will face Millbrook in the Class C championship game at 8:15 p.m. tonight at SUNY New Paltz.
Although Chester’s Chris Labriola swished a 3-pointer with 2:16 left in the opening period to give his team a 10-9 lead, the Bears did not panic. They ended the stanza with a 5-0 run to take a 15-10 lead into the second quarter. Senior forward John Merchant scored two baskets and senior center Fred Moore made an easy hoop following a Hambletonian turnover during the Bears’ scoring run.
T-V extended its advantage to 21 points a minute into the third quarter when Moore scored inside off the glass.
The Bears’ lead grew to as many as 24 points in the fourth period.
Moore led the T-V attack by scoring a game-high 21 points. Merchant finished the evening with 18 points, Dustin Van Lieu had 15 points and Bo Murphy added six points for the Bears.
Kevin Jones was the only Chester player to reach double figures. He nailed four 3-pointers on his way to recording 19 points.
Guerino St. Pierre and Derek Sharp added nine points and six points, respectively for the Hambletonians.
“We did a great job preparing for some zone defense,” Tingley said. “They came out with a triangle-and-two [defense], but we were able to handle that.”
Tingley noted that rebounding and passing were two keys to the game’s outcome.
“Our defensive rebounding tonight was much better than the last time we played them,” he said. “The second time we played them in the regular season, they had 18 offensive rebounds. They didn’t have nearly that many tonight.”
He also noted that his team passed the ball well.
“They are just not selfish players,” Tingley commented. “Nobody is looking to fill it up, it’s not showtime. They just want to get a good shot and get the win.”
Chester Coach Jason Closs noted that his game plan was to slow down the pace of the contest.
“We knew that Tri-Valley looks to get out on the fast break whenever they can,” he said. “We wanted to slow them down a bit. We didn’t expect to totally stop them, but we wanted to slow them down.”
Unfortunately for Closs and the Hambletonians, the Bears were able to get out on the fast break several times during the evening. And many of those breaks ended with a T-V player scoring an easy basket.
“Tri-Valley played very well tonight,” Closs said. “Give them credit, they shot well, rebounded well and passed the ball well.”
Closs noted that he will be losing five seniors to graduation Jones, Labriola, Max Laing, Sharp and St. Pierre.