By Rob Potter
GRAHAMSVILLE December 28, 2007 It was a non-league boys’ basketball game in December, but lasat Friday night’s contest between the visiting Fallsburg Comets and Tri-Valley Bears often felt like a key late-season matchup or even a sectional playoff game.
A spirited, standing room crowd packed the T-V gymnasium and those hundreds of fans were treated to a very exciting, competitive game.
Fallsburg prevailed by the final score of 63-59, but the outcome was not decided until the final minute.
With 36.4 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Fallsburg’s Colin Whitaker was fouled and stepped up to the free-throw line for a 1-and-1. The junior forward calmly made the first foul shot and then nailed the second to give the Comets a seemingly comfortable eight-point lead at 63-55.
But the Bears quickly inbounded the ball and advanced it upcourt. With 27.5 seconds displayed on the scoreboard clock, T-V senior guard Kevin Drown squared up at the top of the key and swished a 3-pointer.
Drown was fouled on the shot, so he went to the free-throw line. He made his free throw to pull the Bears to within four points at 63-59. T-V (3-2) attempted a trio of 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds, but none of them fell through the net.
In the first half, however, it didn’t seem like the final margin of victory would be just four points.
Fallsburg (3-2) sprinted out to a 9-2 lead in the first two-and-half minutes of the game. The advantage grew to 10 points (28-18) when Randy Gilmore hit a 3-pointer with 6:12 remaining in the second period.
With 26 seconds to go in the period, Michael Melko nailed a 3-pointer to give the Comets their biggest lead of the evening at 42-26.
T-V’s Sean Drown scored along the baseline with 8.8 seconds left until halftime to cut the Comets’ advantage to 14 points.
In the third quarter, the Bears increased their intensity on defense to reduce the Fallsburg lead from 42-28 at intermission to 50-45 entering the fourth period. Bo Murphy had four points and Kevin Drown netted three points as T-V outscored the Comets 12 to 3 in the third period.
T-V pulled to within four points four times in the fourth quarter, but could not get any closer.
Gilmore scored a game-high 20 points to pace the Comets’ offensive attack. Darius Buckner netted 13 points for Fallsburg, while teammates Melko and Whitaker added 11 points and nine points, respectively.
Gilmore, Buckner and Melko scored many of their points from outside the 19-foot, 9-inch arc. Gilmore and Melko each knocked down a trio of 3-pointers, while Buckner swished a pair of 3-point shots.
“It feels good to beat Tri-Valley; it’s been a long time since we have,” Fallsburg Coach Pete Dworetsky said. “The last time we defeated them was in 2003, the year we went to Glens Falls [for the state semifinals].”
Dworetsky said he knew it would be difficult to record a victory over the Bears on their home court.
“Tri-Valley is a good team that works hard,” he said. “Coach [Brian] Tingley does a great job and always has his team ready to play.”
Dworetsky explained that he was a little concerned before the game about how his team would perform. He noted the Comets suffered “a tough loss” to Livingston Manor earlier in the week and then had to face the Bears, the defending Section IX Class C champions.
“It was a real team effort tonight,” Dworetsky said. “We played solid defense and played well offensively, too.”
Bo Murphy led the Bears with 19 points. Sean Drown finished with 14 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. Kevin Drown netted 12 points and David McDonald had seven points for T-V.
“We got off to a slow start,” Tingley said. “In a couple of other games this season, we’ve had one bad quarter like that.”
As the game progressed, however, Tingley liked what he saw from his team.
“We played great defense in the third quarter,” he said. “It allowed us to get back into the game.
“For the most part we played pretty well tonight,” Tingley added.
The second-year coach also praised the Comets’ performance.
“They shot the ball very well,” Tingley commented. “They scored 27 points on 3-pointers.”