ONEONTA – When the Marathon Central boys’ basketball team scored the first four points of the second half for a 15 point lead with 4:48 left in the third quarter, many in attendance at Oneonta State’s Dewar Arena figured the final result was a foregone conclusion Saturday.
All those except the Edmeston faithful.
The fourth seeded Panthers rallied to within three points at 48-45 with 6:13 remaining in the game before Marathon retook control and pulled away for a 66-57 victory in the Section 4 Class D Championship game. This is the third Section 4 title in six tries for the Olympians since 1960. Marathon won its previous trip to the finals in 2013 with a 60-55 win over Morris. The Olympians were 58-50 winners over Lansing in the 1994 title game.
Edmeston is now 0-4 in title games since 1960. The last Panther trip was a 1984 loss to Cincinnatus 68-54.
It was an 8-2 run that put Marathon (13-9 overall) back in front 56-47 and allowed the third seed to advance to a first round game in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Tournament Tuesday night in Poughkeepsie. The Olympians will travel to Poughkeepsie High School to face Section 1 champion Martin Luther King Jr. High School at 6 p.m.
Senior guard Mason O’Donnell started the 8-2 run for Marathon with a lay-up while being fouled. O’Donnell added the free throw for a 48-42 cushion. He added a short jumper with 3:55 to play, a steal-and-lay-in with 2:24 left and a free throw with 36 seconds remaining. It all, O’Donnell scored seven of the 21 Marathon points in the crucial fourth quarter and he totaled nine points in the game. Andrew Tillotson and Owen Hoyt added five points each and Diego Castellot netted four points. Hoyt finished with a game high 19 points, Tillotson had 16 and Castellot 12. If these names sound familiar, there are four of 12 players on the roster who also won the Section 4 Class D soccer championship and reached the NYSPHSAA Tournament Class D Final Four last fall.
“It’s nice,” O’Donnell said. “We have worked hard for this. Our defense was a big factor in the win. Coach told us we had to bring our defense on the road and defense wins championships. This shows it.
“It means a lot to all of us seniors,” he added. “To have a successful soccer season, and now basketball, will be something that sticks with us for the rest of our lives.”
“I know the seniors were nervous,” Marathon coach Jim Holland said. “They are expected to be good every year in soccer, so they were nervous how many opportunities would they get in basketball. This is a big turnaround for Diego (Castellot) and Michael Hoyt because they were a part of that 0-20 season two years ago. They really wanted it bad. The younger guys have been saying they want two titles in a row. We’ll see cause we have one now and we still have a long way to go this season.
“Mason has had a tough year,” he continued. “He missed a few games, but he really has been a team player. That’s all we ask each guy to be a player for the team.”
Edmeston (20-4, 5th ranked in NYS) took a 14-13 lead in an exciting first quarter. The score was tied at 16-16 with 6:28 left in the first half before Marathon went on a 10-0. Kenyon DePuy and O’Donnell scored on offensive rebounds to get things started. Castellot followed with a 3-pointer from the right wing and another trey from the left wing for the 26-16 advantage before Edmeston snapped the run with a 3-pointer by Josh Martin. The Olympians closed out the half strong for a 32-21 lead.
Andrew Tillotson scored on a lay-up for a 40-25 Marathon lead with 4:49 to go in the third quarter, but Edmeston mounted a strong comeback.
A lay-up by Derek Lyon started a 15-5 Panther run to close the quarter. Lyon had another lay-up before Parker Robinson heated up with a jumper and two 3-pointers. An off-balance 3-pointer by Luke Ough at the buzzer pulled the Panthers to within 45-40.
“We knew we weren’t out of it at all,” Edmeston coach Darren Belden said. “We made a lot of mistakes in the first half and early in the third quarter. We also got some guys in foul trouble and, you know as well as I do, when you’re a Class D school with some guys in foul trouble, you’re in trouble. We still felt good about coming back if we could get a few stops on defense and made a few buckets. We had Marathon reeling, but we had a few turnovers and that really killed
us. We still have had a great season. This was a hell of a group and we only have three seniors.”
“We sometimes fall asleep on defense and miss some assignments,” Holland said. “Edmeston got a bunch of fastbreak lay-ups in that run in the third quarter. We will need to clean that up because we heard our next opponent likes to run.
“I just told the guys we have been in the driver’s seat for most of the game,” he added. “I told them there’s no need to panic now. We have been the better team in the game. Let’s use all five weapons on the floor. We got what we wanted.”
After Lyon’s lay-up to start the fourth quarter and O’Donnell’s lay-up and free throw, Robinson and Tillotson traded treys for their respective teams. Martin drove for a deuce and Owen Hoyt answered for the Olympians and added the free throw as he was fouled on the made shot. Castellot delivered a steal and lay-in as Marathon led 56-47 with 4:49 to go. Edmeston had a quick burst as Lyon made two free throws and Robinson hit a jumper to close to 56-51 with 4:10 remaining. The Panthers never got to within five points again.
Martin finished the game with 18 points for Edmeston. Robinson added 15 points and Lyon had 12 points.
It will be a long bus ride to Poughkeepsie, but Marathon has a lot to play for and a win would be the first step. The quarterfinals and final four are in the Floyd L. Maines Arena in Binghamton as Section 4 is the host for the NYSPHSAA Final Four in all five Classes AA through D.
“I told the superintendent we have a long, long bus ride to Poughkeepsie,” Holland said. “Hopefully we will get off the bus and be ready to play. That’s the next goal.”