ONEONTA – The team’s coach was in the hospital, its leading scorer was in the bleachers and its second leading scorer watched from the bench for nearly the entire second quarter.
No matter for Oneonta High’s boys, who found a way Friday night.
Senior Paul Bischoff poured in 23 points, sophomore Albert Odero had 12 and OHS’ bench players combined for 21 points in the Yellowjackets’ 60-49 Section Four Class B semifinal basketball victory over Susquehanna Valley.
Before a packed house at Anthony C. Drago Gymnasium, OHS pulled away from a 40-40 deadlock early in the fourth quarter to advance to the sectional final for the first time since losing to Seton Catholic Central in the 2012 Class B title game.
“With our coach out, it was extra motivation tonight,” junior reserve Skylar Thompson said of Jerry Mackey, who missed the game with an undisclosed illness. “He’s in the hospital. He’s been sick. He was at practice (Thursday) but something happened. Tonight was definitely for him.”
Junior varsity coach Brad Zeh – the son of longtime OHS boys and girls basketball coach Bob Zeh – took over for Mackey on the bench.
“I told the guys before the game, you’ve heard it from coach Mackey and me, and my dad that this is a program,” said Zeh, who’s coach JV basketball at OHS for the past 14 seasons. “They’re hearing the same language from modified to varsity. It’s a great benefit to be in a program like that. I’m saying all the same things coach Mackey is saying.”
Next up for second-seeded OHS (17-2) is a third meeting with top-seeded and unbeaten Norwich in the sectional final a week from Saturday at the Broome County Arena. The Yellowjackets’ lone losses this came against Southern Tier Athletic Conference champion Norwich, which beat Whitney Point, 78-57, Friday to advance to the final.