March 1, 2013
Title try for upstart Olympians
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Marathon’s Dan Lincoln (left) is junior starter for the Olympians, who will play for a Class D sectional title Saturday.
When Marathon Central upset defending Section 4 Class D champion South Kortright in the first round of this year’s tournament back on Feb. 20, few outside this area would have predicted the 10th-seeded Olympians would be playing in Saturday’s 6 p.m. title game at SUNY Oneonta’s Dewar Arena.
After knocking off those seventh-seeded Rams 75-67, Marathon basketball boys (9-12 overall) have done just that after beating second-seed Margaretville 55-49 in the quarterfinals before knocking off equally upset-minded 14th-seed Edmeston 60-46 this past Wednesday night.
One of those not as surprised the Olympians are still alive is Morris coach Dave Sander.
The top-seeded and fifth-ranked Class D school in New York State, Sander’s Mustangs (18-1) saw one of Marathon’s IAC foes — eighth-seed Southern Cayuga on Feb. 23 — and posted a 77-60 quarterfinal round victory after receiving a first-round bye.
Morris reached the title game with a 77-39 win Wednesday over fifth-seed Hunter-Tannersville. Sander and his team watched Marathon dismantle Edmeston, those same Panthers being the only team to defeat Morris in the fifth game of the season.
“Marathon is not a true 10th seed,” Sander said. “They have played bigger schools all season long, just like Southern Cayuga. The IAC is a tough league.
“I’m more surprised by the number of upsets in the Class D tournament,” he continued. “We’ve been fortunate, so far, that we haven’t been one of them. Southern Cayuga was a real good test for us. That (Vince) Stebbins kid was really good.”
As for facing Marathon, Sander gave his scouting report.
“Marathon is very impressive,” he said. “They are a sound team fundamentally and they like to spread the floor. They are a quick, athletic team that really is balanced and well-rounded.
“The (Jeff) Contri kid is very good,” Sander added. “He’s tough to stop inside and Kody (Barry) can really shoot the ball. Those are two very talented kids, but they have all the other right pieces in place as support players.”
Contri is averaging 14.6 points and six rebounds per game. Barry averages 13.9 ppg along with three rebounds, two assists and two steals per contest. There are the seniors on the roster along with Dan Wickham who comes off the bench.
The other Marathon starters are juniors Zach Brandstadt (7.5 ppg), Dan Lincoln (6 ppg) and Tyler Hoellerer (5 ppg). The remaining Olympians off the bench are juniors Cody Morrison, David Lincoln, Isaiah Brook and Holden Morsey.
Marathon has four Section 4 titles in 10 trips to the championship game. The latest championship came in the 1993-94 season as a Class D school. The Olympians won titles in 1948-49 (Class B), 1953-54 (Class B) and 1954-55 (Class C).
The last IAC team to win a Section 4 Class D title was Newfield in 2005.
Morris only has one title on its shelf, the Class C crown in the 1974-75 season. The Mustangs are looking to become the first Tri-Valley team to win the sectional crown in Class D since Milford in 1999.
Morris has a lot of similarities to the Marathon team. Senior starting forward Levi Decker (6-foot-2) and senior shooting guard Mike DeLuca (6-1) are both averaging close to 17 points per game and have been the main scorers for the team.
Senior center Skylar Maricle (6-2) and senior point guard Kerry Smith (5-9) are also returning starters with junior forward Andrew Dougherty (6-0) the fifth starter. All three are averaging between five and six points per game though Maricle has shined in the post-season. He scored 16 against Hunter-Tannersville after a 19-point effort against Southern Cayuga.
Four of the five starters are returnees from last season. It is also a team riding a 13-game win streak.
“We have been pretty consistent all season long,” Sander said. “We have had some ups and downs, but these are 15, 16 and 17 year old kids so things to change daily with them.
“Levi and Mike have been our go-to guys all season long,”he added of decker and DeLuca. “Kerry is a much stronger defensive player than scorer and Andrew has been very dependable. Skylar really has stepped up as a post-season scorer. That has been a nice surprise.”
The Mustangs’ height comes off the bench in the form of sophomores Cody Myers (6-3) and Aidan Staib (6-3). Rounding out the roster are seniors Brandon Shelly and T.J. Doyle, juniors Chris Showers and Mike Silicato, plus sophomores Dillon Humphris and Cameron Hill.
“Morris reminds me a lot of John Filzen’s Groton team that went to the sectional final last year,” Marathon coach Jim Holland said. “They have an active offense and a tough defense. Morris has a lot of good athletes. This will be a big challenge.”
This will be the first sectional title game for both coaches as well as the players.
“This is definitely a big game Saturday,” Holland said. “They guys were a little sluggish in practice last night, but I think that was because they were emotionally drained for the night before.
“I am very optimistic,” he added. “We have the team that can win in all, but there is a reason that Morris is ranked fifth in the state polls.”
That experience coming from successful post-season autumn runs in soccer helps, as a number of the Marathon players were part of that success.
“We certainly know that Marathon is successful in soccer,” Sander said. “We have not matched up against them recently, but they know how to win those big title games and that could be a help in this instant along with the fact they have have been playing Class B and C schools all season.
“It is good that there is only two days between games,” he continued. “There isn’t a lot of time to think about it. This certainly is the biggest game in their careers.”
One other footnote to this game. Should Marathon win, they would be the home team as Section 4 hosts the regional game March 9. Their possible opponent could be an old IAC foe from years gone by, Cincinnatus. The fourth-seeded Red Lions (16-3) play for the Section 3 Class D crown at 12:45 p.m. Sunday against second-seed New York Mills (18-3) at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
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