By Rob Potter
OLD WESTBURY March 13, 2007 “The Year” is over for “The Team.”
The most successful boys’ basketball season in Tri-Valley Central School history came to a heartbreaking end Friday night on Long Island. Section VIII champion Friends Academy defeated T-V, 53-47, in a New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Class C quarterfinal game at SUNY Old Westbury.
Friends Academy, which improved to 14-7, will play in the Class C state semifinals on Friday night in Glens Falls. T-V concluded its season with a 22-2 record.
Things began pretty well for the Bears, however.
Senior forward John Merchant tipped in a missed shot just over a minute into the contest. At the 5:29 mark, Merchant gave T-V a 4-0 lead when he scored a layup.
With 4:05 remaining in the opening stanza, junior forward Bo Murphy scored inside the lane thanks to a timely pass by senior forward Fred Moore. The basket gave the Bears a 6-0 advantage.
After Friends Academy’s David Vallins made a free throw with 2:36 remaining, Murphy scored on an offensive rebound at the 1:28 mark. The hoop gave the Bears an 8-1 cushion and had the scores of T-V fans in the bleachers standing and cheering loudly.
But the Quakers calmly narrowed the deficit during the next few minutes. With 6:10 remaining in the second period, Vallins scored a layup on a fast break to bring Friends Academy to within four points at 13-9.
He then swished a pair of 3-point shots during the next minute to give the Quakers their first lead of the night, 15-13.
After enjoying a 26-21 lead at halftime, Friends Academy extended its advantage to as many as seven points in the third quarter.
With 1:37 remaining in that stanza, T-V sophomore guard Dustin Van Lieu swished a 3-point shot to knot the score at 32-32. The subsequent roar from the T-V faithful was positively deafening as Friends Academy Coach Steve Hefele called a timeout to quell the Bears’ momentum.
Over the next minute, Quaker forward Alex Petrossian scored twice inside the paint to give his team a 36-32 lead.
With 5:41 remaining in the fourth quarter, Moore tipped in an errant shot to pull T-V even at 38-38.
But Friends Academy responded with an 8-0 scoring run over the next three minutes. Vallins’ 3-pointer with 2:55 displayed on the scoreboard clock capped the Quakers’ outburst and gave them a 46-38 advantage.
T-V couldn’t get any closer than five points the rest of the way.
Petrossian scored a game-high 23 points, while Vallins had 12 points and Josh Jacobson added nine points.
Petrossian scored many of his points when the Quaker guards, mainly Vallins, penetrated into the lane and drew the attention of the Bear defenders. Vallins, or the other guard, then quickly passed the ball to Petrossian, who was all alone under the hoop. More often than not, he made the close-range shot.
T-V was also hurt by committing 16 turnovers and going just 4-for-13 at the free-throw line.
“We played pretty good defense the whole game,” Hefele said. “We used a 3-2 zone and switched out of it to a man-to man defense to try and slow down their transition game.
“I think we did a good job of rebounding the ball,” he added.
Van Lieu led the Bears with 14 points, the majority of which came on a trio of successful 3-point shots. Merchant netted 13 points, while Moore finished with 11 points.
T-V Coach Brian Tingley noted that his team tried to mix up its defense between zone and man-to-man to stop the Quakers.
“But we had trouble on the weak side,” he said. “They were able to get Petrossian open on the back side.
“And we kind of lost David Vallins a couple of times, which was big for them,” added Tingley, referring to the two 3-point shots Vallins hit early in the second quarter to give the Quakers the lead.
Tingley praised his players for the way they came back to tie the game twice and kept playing hard for the entire 32 minutes.
Of course, Tingley and his players were very disappointed that their special season had ended. The loss was especially tough for the five seniors Kevin Delaney, William Elberth, Michael Kaplan, Merchant and Moore.
“It really hurts now, it will hurt tomorrow and the next day,” Tingley commented. “But next week, next month, next year, these guys will look back on the season with many good memories.
“And William Elberth is never going to forget about that 3-pointer he made at New Paltz,” Tingley continued.
The coach was referring to the 3-pointer Elberth swished in the final seconds of the third quarter of the Bears’ opening round state tournament victory over Section I champion Alexander Hamilton last Wednesday at SUNY New Paltz. The shot gave T-V a 15-point lead and inspired the hundreds of fans who traveled from the Grahamsville area to leap to their feet and cheer wildly.
“Someday, he’s going to be telling his grandchildren about making that shot,” Tingley said.