Double Eagles, double Devils

By TED WADDELL
Posted 1/8/20

DOWNSVILLE, NY — In a series of tournament games that featured four teams, two squads took to the hardwood sharing the same mascot: the Eagles of Deposit-Hancock and the Eagles of Downsville, …

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Double Eagles, double Devils

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DOWNSVILLE, NY — In a series of tournament games that featured four teams, two squads took to the hardwood sharing the same mascot: the Eagles of Deposit-Hancock and the Eagles of Downsville, and the Roscoe Blue Devils and the Blue Devils of Margaretville.

It was a case of all players doubling down, as all the local high school bucketeers competed with a spirited sense of zealous tenacity.

The annul Downsville Holiday Classic basketball tournament was started 34 years ago by Jeff Baier, the school’s athletic director and former boys’ varsity basketball coach for 25 years.

“I started the tourney in my first year here,” said Baier, noting that several schools such as Jeffersonville-Youngsville, which were once part of the Western Sullivan League (WSL) no longer exist.

“A lot has changed in 34 years,” he said reflectively.

Of special note to sports scribblers is that the local tourney featured a trio of folks named to the Basketball Coaches Association of New York’s (BCANY) Hall of Fame: Roscoe’s Fred Ahart (2009), his devoted wife and partner in coaching Becky Ahart (2015) and Jeff Baier (2019).

“I was inducted this past March,” said Baier proudly. “Fred got me into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame.”

Baier serves as co-coordinator of Section IV boys’ basketball, while Fred Ahart coordinates boys’ Section IX hoops.

On the importance of tourneys during the holiday season, Baier said it is critical to keep the hoopsters blood flowing during vacation breaks. “If you don’t have any games, the kids aren’t going to come to practice… Two weeks is an awful lot of time if you don’t play in the middle of the season,” added the 1981 grad of Delaware Academy in Delhi, who took to the court for four years during high school.

His take of the relevancy of high school hoops?

“There’s so much you can teach the kids about life and teamwork,” replied Baier. “You can wrestle or play another sport such as track, but in basketball, you’ve got all five people working together… We’re like family.”

On Friday, December 27, the opening round of the 2019 basketball tourney featured the home team Eagles of Downsville High taking on the Roscoe Blue Devils boys’ varsity hoopsters. At the final buzzer, Roscoe had posted their first win of the season by defeating their neighboring high school rivals 58-49.

The Eagles took an early game lead, outpacing Roscoe 17-10 in the first frame.

In the second period, the Blue Devils turned the tables by outgunning their opponents 17-9, posting a slim one-point lead (27-26) at the half.

In the final frames, Roscoe clinched their first win of the season by outscoring Downsville 15-8 and 16-15, despite a last period rally by the Eagles.

Roscoe’s top-scorers: Arron Steele (16), Alaniz Ruiz (14 total points, including two 3-pointers) and Collin Garafollo (11).

Downsville: Jason Gustoffson (16 total points, including a 3-pointer), Logan Cazzolla (16 points, including a 3-pointer) and Steven Gummoe (9).

Stats from the free throw line: Roscoe 10/23 (43%), Downsville 10/17 (59%).

The consolation game was played on Saturday, December 28 between the Blue Devils of Margaretville, coached by John Bernhardt, and the Downsville Eagles, coached by Burt Reed.

At the final buzzer, the Blue Devils of Margaretville defeated the Downsville Eagles 60-31, edging them 29-24 in the first half, and put a lid on the game in the second half as they outscored their opponents 38-7.

Reflecting on how his team performed in the tourney, comparing their first game of the tournament to the consolation round, Margaretville’s helmsman Bernhard said, “It was like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tournament… We either did very, very well, or very, very poorly. We played two different games.”

Margaretville’s top guns aced the game from outside the arc with their 3-point shooting: Ivan Herrara (16 points including three 3-pointers), Connor Joedicke (16, including a 3-pointer), Billy Miller (13 including a three 3-pointers), Willie Cano (11 with a 3-pointer), and Michael Gavette (9 including a 3-pointer).

Downsville: Logan Cicio (11 points in the first half) and Jason Gustafsson (9).

Stats from the foul line: Margaretville 7/10 (70%), Downsville 1/3 (33%).

Later that afternoon in the wake of the conso-match, the Roscoe Blue Devils were defeated 72-41 by the Eagles of Deposit-Hancock in the championship game.

Ben Diemer, coach of the Deposit-Hancock Eagles (6-3) is in his 12th year as head of the boys’ varsity team.

“It was a pretty good game from start to finish, well-balanced... We worked hard and didn’t get over confident,” he said, noting that in the first game of the season for both squads, the Eagles defeated the Blue Devils of Roscoe at Hancock High School by a whopping score of 81-10.

Asked what it was like to compete against Section IX legend Fred Ahart, Diemer replied, “It’s fun, he’s a class act… You can tell he works really well with the kids. It’s always a pleasure to have him come through our doors, or travel down there.”

Fred “Coach” Ahart has been at the helm of Roscoe’s athletic department and boys’ varsity hoops for 51 years. That’s right folks, a tad more than half-a-century and counting.

While battling some issues of his own, Ahart still stands tall on the hardwood, as he instills a sense of sportsmanship and competition in his players, as they listen to their mentor of the challenges of hoops and life.

His take on the 2019-2020 Blue Devils (1-6), comparing their first outing to the tourney’s championship game?

“Improvement is what we are looking for. We certainly improved very much in the second game (against Deposit-Hancock), but obviously we have a lot of improvement to do,” said Ahart.

“We take it one game at a time, then the season takes care of itself,” he added.

Roscoe’s leading point-getters: Alaniz Ruiz (11) and Collin Garofollo (11 points including a 3-pointer).

Deposit-Hancock: Tyler Santamaria (18 total points including four 3-pointers from beyond the arc), Christian Sokol (14), Wyatt Jacobs (12), Caleb Walker (9) and Jacob Dobormirescu, who added a 3-pointer to his team’s victory.

Stats from the free throw line: Roscoe 5/6 (83%), Deposit-Hancock 9/18 (50%).

Tabbed by the coaches for 2019 Downsville Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team: Jason Gustefsson (Downsville), Connor Joedicke (Margartville), Alaniz Ruiz (Roscoe), Arron Steele (Roscoe) and Christian Soklol (Deposit-Hancock).

Tyler Santamaria of the Deposit-Hancock Eagles was named the tourney’s Most Valuable Player.

Last but not least, a noteworthy observation from the sidelines.

During a break in the action, Jesse Ouiment, a senior from Livingston Manor High School, who plays for Ahart on the combined Roscoe-Livingston Manor-Downsville football team, stopped by Blue Devils’ bench to give his coach a couple of candy bars, proving that even in defeat, a basketball game can be sweet.

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