Story by Eli Ruiz
Fallsburg rode a second-half surge and better preparation to slip past Chester 66-61 Wednesday, avenging a heartbreaking December 8 loss to the Hambletonians in the championship game of their home tournament.
“We executed much better than on the 8th,” said Fallsburg coach Pete Dworetsky. “The big thing in that earlier game was that they kept a man out on defense. They played four on five essentially so they’d send a guy off. But we worked diligently this week to make sure we covered all our bases,” added Dworetsky.
After a slow and fidgety start, Fallsburg tightened its defense in the second half and put together a couple of scoring runs to overcome Chester’s first-half lead. Rakkir Watson and Aaron Burrell each scored 17 points for the Comets as they tried to outlast Chester standout guard Lawrence Young. The pair also combined for nine steals while Burrell hauled in nine rebounds. Ahmad Shomo added 13 points and seven rebounds for Fallsburg.
Chester 2-3 (0-2 OCIAA Div. V) led 11-4 with little more than four minutes left in the opening quarter and looked to be cruising to its second win in 10 days over the Comets. But Fallsburg 3-2 (1-1 OCIAA Div. V) settled down, and fueled by a steal and subsequent lay up by Jarrett Madison, went on a 5-0 run to draw within 17-15 early in the second quarter.
Young is one of the Section’s best and he moved Chester out in front again, spearheading a 10-0 run that gave Chester a 25-17 lead just before halftime. Young led all scorers with 22 points.
Fallsburg closed the half with a 9-2 spurt run of its own to make it a one-point game at half.
“We just talked at halftime about just doing things fundamentally right,” said Dworestky. “Making better decisions and just settling down.
The Comets certainly did make better decisions in the second half. Shakree Gibson hit a jump-shot with six minutes left in the third to tie the contest at 31. Four straight points by Watson gave Fallsburg its first lead of the game, 35-31, and the Comets would never look back as a 12-0 run late in the third quarter gave them a commanding 43-31 lead.
Chester entered the fourth quarter down seven, but another furious Comet run seemingly put the game out of reach at 51-38 with a few minutes left.
Young, though, stole the ball from Watson and drove the length of the court for a layup with 2:17 left. Chester had narrowed the gap to a manageable six points in the closing minute, but Fallsburg’s swarming defense would seal the deal.
“They came in here a few years ago and beat us at the buzzer,” said Dworestsky. “Those things stick in your head bad memories.
“Hey, we lost our man there a little bit but we brought more pressure in the second half and mixed things up on them when we thought they were getting too comfortable We just switched it up on them and we were able to keep them on their toes and pull it out in the end.”
Fallsburg travels to Grahamsville Friday to take on undefeated Tri-Valley in a league game.