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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 18, 2010

Voorheesville is odd team out in battle for share of title

By Jordan J. Michael

WATERVLIET –– Stepping up big and winning important games makes a basketball team great. The Blackbirds had a near miss this season.

On Friday, Voorheesville traveled to Watervliet for a game of epic proportions. The winner would share the Colonial Council title with Lansingburgh. The gym was packed to standing room only for the final regular-season contest that would decide the fate of the league.

The Blackbirds and the Cannoneers were deadlocked at 46 to 46 at the start of the fourth quarter. Voorheesville played tough, but couldn’t match Watervliet’s scoring in the final quarter. The Blackbirds lost, 66 to 59, and became the odd team out of the mix.

Voorheesville, Watervliet, and Lansingburgh have consistently been at the top of the Colonial Council over the past few years. The title isn’t usually decided until the end of the season. The teams are that evenly matched.

The Blackbirds play each team twice every year and this season Voorheesville was only 1-3 in those four games. Voorheesville beat Lansingburgh back in December, but dropped two to Watervliet and one to Lansingburgh at home since then.

Voorheesville started the season 8-0 and was ranked first in the state in Class C. The team went 6-4 down the stretch and struggled in big games.

“We can’t look back and ponder those losses because we need to get ready for sectionals,” said senior center Ethan Mackey, who scored 22 points for the Blackbirds on Friday. He is fifth in Section II with 19.8 points per game. “We’ll learn from this and look forward.”

Watervliet’s Griffen Kelly said that sweeping Voorheesville in the season series is a tough task. “Beating a team like that twice makes us feel pretty good,” he said. “Those are the types of wins you need to build confidence.”

Packed house

The Cannoneers’ small classic-style gym was perfect for Friday’s events. The bleachers were full and the crowd noise added to the already intense atmosphere.

There was some evidence of big-game jitters for both teams in the first quarter. Eventually, the Blackbirds built a 10-to-4 lead after Chris Castren put in a stylish lay-up. Watervliet’s Nick Durocher cut into that lead with a three-pointer, but Voorheesville held a 12-to-9 lead after the first quarter.

Basically, the game was a constant shootout for the rest of the way. Voorheesville had to keep pace with Section II’s highest scoring team. The Cannoneers average 71.3 points per game.

“They got to the basket quick and kept hitting shots,” Mackey said. “Both teams traded buckets all game long.”

In the second quarter, Joe Keenan hit a three for the Blackbirds, and Mackey was starting to get good looks inside the paint. Voorheesville retained the lead until Devonte Gleason got Watervliet moving with a three, followed by a monster block by Jordan Gleason on a lay-up attempt by Conor Cashin of the Blackbirds. After the block, Devonte Gleason stole the ball and passed it to Tyler McLeod in transition for a lay-up and a foul.

The Cannoneers now led, 23 to 21, but Mackey got the lead back for Voorheesville by making a lay-up while being fouled. Devonte Gleason went on to hit another three-pointer to give Watervliet a one-point lead at halftime, 28-27.

The key to the game for the Cannoneers was timely three-pointers. Devonte Gleason and Durocher each made three from beyond the arch and McLeod added one of his own. Voorheesville only made two shots from three-point range.

“Watervliet is a great team,” said Voorheesville Head Coach Don Catellier. “They put up a lot of points.”

Durocher, the game’s leading scorer with 23 points, put the Blackbirds on its heels in the third quarter when he hit two gigantic threes from the same spot. Watervliet now had a six-point lead, but timely baskets by Mackey and Nick Crawford brought Voorheesville back for the 46-to-46 tie.

Catellier told The Enterprise that his team could have pulled out the win if it expanded on all the “little things” towards the end. “The point was to match every basket and we didn’t do that in the fourth quarter,” he said. “We weren’t doing a good job of boxing out for rebounds and that caused a lot of problems.”

Cashin gave the Blackbirds a 48-to-46 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter and the two teams continued to trade baskets until Watervliet finally pulled away. Crawford had a nice showing with 18 points and kept Voorheesville close.

Castren, who had 11 points, got the Blackbirds within three when he rebounded a miss by Keenan and got fouled. But, Kelly came up big for the Cannoneers when he went strong on Mackey, only to get his own rebound and score, making it 60 to 55 with a minute left in regulation.

Castren made two key free throws and Voorheesville still had a chance. The chance of a win withered away when the Blackbirds failed to secure a rebound of Devonte Gleason’s missed shot. Kelly hustled to grab the ball before it bounced out of bounds, and the crowd cheered in victory.

“The gym was packed and you could feel the pressure,” said Kelly. “Everyone in this building had our back and we knew we could pull this win out.”

“I still had hope at the end,” Catellier said. “That rebound by Kelly was a disappointment.”

Catellier knows that winning a Colonial Council title is important to the team, but sectionals are the main focus. The Blackbirds will go from playing larger Class A and B schools all season long to playing Class C schools in the playoffs.

Voorheesville has a 14-4 record heading into the sectionals. The team will have an early exit in the playoffs if it continues to struggle in big games.

“We have bigger things to worry about now,” said Catellier.

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