BINGHAMTON — It was an outstanding high school basketball game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds as the ninth-ranked Marathon Central boys upset fifth-ranked Bridgehampton 66-60 in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Central Region Championship Game at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton Sunday night.
It was the first trip to The Arena for the Section 4 champions (15-9 overall) who will return to the same venue next Saturday against Section 10 champion Harrisville (19-6) in the second of two Class D semifinal match-ups at 2:30 p.m. Harrisville was ranked 11th in the state, but is now ranked second after a 64-56 over previous number one and Section 3 champion Lyme last Friday. Marathon is ranked third in the newest state poll. The first semifinal game takes place Saturday at 12:45 p.m. and features the new number one team in the state, Section 2 champion Oppenheim-Ephrata-St. Johnsville (21-3), facing fourth-ranked Section 6 champion Panama (18-6). OESJ downed Section 7 champion Wells 57-40 Saturday while Panama edged Section 5 champion Belfast 56-51. The Class D state championship game will be Sunday at 2 p.m.
The biggest Bridgehampton lead on Sunday was five points, 13-8, with 32 seconds left in the first quarter and Marathon’s biggest advantage was six points, 54-48, with 6:56 remaining in the fourth quarter and the final margin at the buzzer. The game saw 13 lead changes and eight ties.
The Killer Bees (15-10) got to within 58-57 with 3:26 remaining on a free throw by J.P Harding, who pounded the Olympians for 28 points, 14 on offensive rebounds.
Diego Castellot drove the lane for a lay-up with 2:10 to go put give Marathon a 60-57 edge. Castellot netted 28 points for the Olympians, many by driving the lane or the baseline for layups.
A free throw by Mason O’Donnell made it a two-possession game with 1:28 left on a free throw and Castellot drove the baseline for an insurance bucket. Two free throws by Andrew Tillotson and an a free throw by Owen Hoyt sealed the victory.
“It feels amazing to come this far as a team,” Tillotson said. “We enjoy each other so much and we get along so well. There was a little bit of pressure (on the first free throw). After I made the first one, it went away. On the second one I just relaxed and hit it.”
“It does feel amazing,” Castellot said. “It was a great team win tonight. Everyone was able to drive to the basket and that helped open things up.When we ran the weave up top we were able to catch them sleeping and we were able to drive to the rim without them noticing it.”
The game plan was simple for Marathon head coach Jim Holland, who was also making his first trip to the Arena as a player or coach, against an opponent with nine Class D state championships.
“We talked about their height beforehand and I told the guys you can’t let the height get to you,” Holland said. “We just have to play our game which is attack, attack, attack. We really didn’t settle for threes and that help us keep our composure. We weren’t bricking shots and worrying. We were missing some chippies, but we knew we could make those. That helped us and carried us through.”
Bridgehamton had three starters 6-1 or taller while Marathon had two as tall.
An offensive putback by Harding with 32 seconds left in the first quarter gave the Killer Bees their 13-8 lead.
Marathon closed out the first quarter with a bucket by Castellot before Tillotson opened the second quarter with a lay-up and Conor Holland came off the bench to drill a 3-pointer as the 7-0 run put the Olympians up 15-13. The teams spared the rest of the quarter with O’Donnell putting Marathon ahead 29-25 with 1:24 until halftime with a 3-pointer.
Bridgehampton closed out the half with driving lay-ups by Harding and William Walker to send the teams to the locker room tied at 29-29.
The third quarter was just as tight until Castellot nailed two treys from the top of the key and added a free throw for a 7-0 run that put the Olympians up 51-45 with one quarter to go. Marathon never trailed again.
Owen Hoyt netted 14 points for Marathon while Tillotson had 10 points for the Olympians. Elijah White and Naejon Ward each added 13 points for Bridgehampton.
“Harding really did kill us inside and I didn’t realize Diego had such a high scoring game,” Holland said. “We ran our four-man subs off the bench in the first half and they did a great job. I have told Diego that no one can stop him when he goes to the rim. He got a couple of big baskets for us and his 3s gave us some breathing room.
“We have an Achilles Heel throughout the playoffs where we get a 13- to 15-point lead and we have it cut down to almost nothing,” he continued. “Tonight, we didn’t
have the big lead and I think it really worked for us. I thought we really played well and didn’t lose our composure. They (Bridgehampton) were tough and scrappy.”
The bench players Coach Holland alluded to were La’Zhay Reinford, Conor Holland, O’Donnell and Kenyon DePuy.
As for the trip to the Final Four, it’s nothing new to the athletes who play soccer at Marathon, but it is something new for a basketball underdog and a great way for the seniors to close out their careers.
“I’m glad I could help them get to this point before they leave this summer,” said Tillotson, a junior. “I’m going to miss them next year because they are a bunch of fun guys. They are fun to play with.”
“We like being the underdog coming in and upsetting everybody,” said Castellot, another junior. “It really feels like playing a home game in Marathon because of all the support we get. Getting to the Arena and moving on is really awesome.”
“It will be nice to have a little break and be able to prepare for a return trip here.”
“I see Harrisville did beat number one Lyme,” Holland said. “They must do some good things on defense, because I know Lyme had a pretty potent offense. We will have to do our homework and see where we go.”