DELHI _ Bookend contributions by a pair of 10th-graders helped Margaretville’s boys end a drought that started before a majority of the current roster was born.
Sophomore Cooper Reither hit three three-pointers in the first quarter to get the Blue Devils off to a solid start. Classmate Matt VanValkenburg made a big defensive play and assisted on a key basket with about a minute left.
The result was a 48-41 Margaretville victory over South Kortright before a big crowd at SUNY Delhi that gave the Blue Devils their first Delaware League crossover basketball title since 1995.
“I’m happy for the school and I’m happy for the kids,” Margaretville coach Jeremey Marks said of the program’s first DL title since a 67-64 over SK in 1995. “They’re basketball junkies. They want to play and they play a lot. I’m happy that their hard work was rewarded because they’ve put in a lot of work over the past 4-5 years. They started when they were youngsters.”
Reither had three threes before the game was five minutes old. He hit two threes from the baseline and when he swished one from the left wing with 3:03 left in the first quarter, he gave Margaretville a 13-10 lead.
“I was able to hit some shots in the first quarter and I think that settled us down,” said Reither, who finished with four three-pointers and a game-high 14 points.
The back-and-forth opening quarter ended with the Blue Devils ahead, 17-15.
Offensive production slowed considerably over the final three quarters.
For a spell early in the third quarter, it appeared Margaretville (16-2) might run away this one.
VanValkenburg hit a three from the key with 5:43 left in the quarter to give the Blue Devils a 33-24 lead.
When VanValkenburg scored on a layup in transition off a pass from backcourt mate Kyle Short, Margaretville led, 35-26.
But then the Rams (13-5) responded with their best stretch of basketball on this night. They rattled of nine points over the final 2:55 of the quarter to tie the score at 35.
Senior Trevor Holdridge started the run with a baseline jumper. Dylan Cole, who scored a team-high 13 points, scored in transition off a pass from Holdridge to make it 35-30 with two minutes left in the period.
Griff Metzko then made what might have been the toughest shot of the evening. On another fastbreak, Metzko went hard to the basket on the left side and laid up a delicate shot high off the glass that went through the rim as he was fouled with 1:26 to play in the third quarter. Metzko’s free throw made it a two-point spread and Cole tied it after receiving a hit-ahead pass from Holdridge for a layup with 40 seconds left in the quarter.
The last of Reither’s threes came a minute into the fourth quarter and put the Blue Devils ahead, 38-35.
Holdridge answered for SK 30 seconds later on a pull-up jumper from the right elbow to make it a one-point spread. The Rams, playing in their fifth straight DL final and losing for the second straight year, wouldn’t make another field goal.
“The thing I’m proud of is we didn’t surrender any easy buckets,” Marks said of his team’s defense over the final 6 ½ minutes.
Two free throws by Anthony Salcido gave SK a 39-38 lead with 5:44 left.
A layup by Mitch Hull gave Margaretville a 40-39 lead, but Metzko tied the score on a free throw with 4:54 to go.
Dylan Shaffer’s free throw with 4:34 left gave the Blue Devils the lead for keeps at 41-40. It stayed that way until Margaretville center Hull capped his 11-point night by following up his miss to make it 43-40 with 2:15 to play.
That set up the first VanValkenburg’s big plays.
SK hadn’t played man-to-man all night, but switched into that defense for the final two minutes. Cole stepped into a passing lane and made a steal. He appeared to have a clear lane to a basket that would have cut SK’s deficit to one point.
Instead, VanValkenburg sprinted back and contested Cole’s shot on the left side of the rim. He forced a miss that Margaretville rebounded with about 1:20 left.
“I had four fouls, but I knew I had to contest it,” VanValkenburg said.
Added Marks: “It was a huge hustle play. Even though we make a mistake, he doesn’t allow the basket and it would have been a huge basket.”
On the other end, VanValkenburg beat his defender into the lane and when an SK forward came out to stop him, he shoveled a pass to Ryan Sanford, who hit a layup that made the score 45-40 with 59 seconds left.
“I penetrated and just waited for the defender to come out and dished it to Ryan,” VanValkenburg said.
When Cole misfired from the baseline with 45 seconds left and Reither hit a pair of free throws one second later, the Blue Devils had all but sealed it.
“Give Margaretville credit,” said SK coach Bob VanValkenburg, whose team lost, 47-45, to Hunter-Tannersville in last year’s final to end a streak of three straight crossover titles. “We missed a lot of layups, but they played tough defense and contested a lot of them.”
Sanford finished with 10 points for Margaretville, which is seeded second for the Section Four Class D tournament. The Blue Devils have a first-round bye and could face seventh-seeded South Kortright in a quarterfinal Feb. 23.
SK will host 10th-seeded Marathon on Tuesday.