By Robert Jeffrey
Sun Sports Contributor
SIDNEY – Don’t tell Unadilla Valley Storm head coach Matt Osborne that we’re only half way through February because right now his team is playing as if it’s the middle of March. Appropriately enough his Cinderella Storm team broke some hearts on Valentine’s Day knocking off the tenth ranked class C team in New York State in the Sidney Warriors by a score of 68-65 in the semi-finals of the Mid-State Athletic Conference tournament.
From the opening tip off the visiting Unadilla Valley Storm’s offensive unit shifted into gear-lighting up the scoreboard for 25 points in the opening quarter and in turn held the Warriors to only 16 points in the quarter. Those in attendance started to smell an upset as the second quarter began and once again the Storm had full offensive control over the host Warriors punching 17 points up on the board, meanwhile Sidney wallowed close behind with 13 points in the second period.
If Sidney had any chance of getting back into the game, facing a 42-29 deficit at the break, the Warriors needed to control the offensive dynamo in the Storm’s Andrew Jackson who was lighting the nets on fire scoring 15 points in the first half- with nine of his points coming off three pointers. However, the main defensive dilemma for the Warriors was how to control the trio of UV players in Jackson, Geoff Keach and Mason Mikalunas who scored 32 of their team’s 42 points in the opening half.
The second half proved to be any high school basketball fan’s dream, as the Warriors offensive got rolling and their defense was able to stick to their game plan of controlling the Storm’s efficient offensive play. Scoring 17 points in the third period the Warriors were bent on setting the tone that they refused to be dominated in their own gymnasium. With the score 55-46 entering the fourth quarter, Sidney fought back with ferocious resolve to win the game – and they did just that by scoring 19 points in the final quarter.
But, just like any good basketball game there are always those critical plays and critical moments that can raise an athlete into the spotlight. And how about to make it any more dramatic, pressure and tension filled – how about going to the foul line to put your team ahead in the game and seemingly clinch the victory over the tenth ranked team in New York State and send your team to the MAC championship game in the process?
For any other high school hoops player, this situation might have them shaking in their Nikes. But for the Storm’s Andrew Jackson who was at the charity stripe in a win or lose situation? Sure. No-Problem. Easy. As he slowly sunk the hopes of the Sidney Warriors fans everywhere who still remained amazed at their team’s incredible comeback.
Jackson buried four straight free-throws to claim the victory for the visiting Storm, single-handedly providing his team a four point swing that proved to be the difference as UV went from a 65-64 deficit to a 68-65 victory.
“Tonight was one of the greatest games I have been a part of” said head coach Matt Osborne of his team’s improbable win.
Andrew Jackson led the Storm with 26 points, Geoff Keach recorded 12 points and Mason Mikalunas added another 11 points in their team’s win. Trever Dutton and Alex Hoskins recorded 15 points apiece for Sidney, Daw Backus pitched in 14 points and Collin Karl poured in another 12 points in their team’s setback.
Unadilla Valley will play for the MAC Championship on Saturday February 18, against Delhi at SUNY Delhi with tip off scheduled for 8 p.m.
UV: 25 17 13 13 – 68
Sidney: 16 13 17 19 – 65
UV: Dye 1 4-4 7, Grey 0 2-2 2, Jackson 8 7-7 26, Keach 5 0-0 12, Mikalunas 5 1-2 11, Rifanburg 4 0-0 8, Stirone 0 0-0 0, Turner 1 0-0 2. Totals: 24 13-15 68
Sidney: Backus 5 1-2 14, Dutton 5 5-5 15, Hoskins 7 1-1 15, Karl 4 4-7 12, Smith 1 7-7 9, Vibbard 0 0-0 0. Totals: 22 18-22 65
Three-Pointers: UV- Dye (1), Jackson (3), Keach (2); Sidney- Backus (3).