By Greg Klein
---- — ONEONTA — Round Two went to Milford, but the Wildcats needed overtime to complete their 52-47 comeback win over previously unbeaten Edmeston in the Tri-Valley League boys basketball final Saturday at Oneonta State.
Milford all but erased its 25-18 halftime deficit with a 13-7 run in the third quarter, then engaged in a see-saw fourth period that ended with the teams tied at 43.
The Wildcats’ Peyton Griffiths scored the final points of regulation on a putback with 20 seconds to go, giving the Panthers plenty of time to figure out a winning play. What Edmeston didn’t figure on was a huge defensive play by junior forward Jacob Tabor that set up the extra period.
After running the seconds to single digits, Edmeston point guard Linton Wainright started to execute a familiar play that had hurt Milford all game. He drove the lane and attempted to find forward Brandon Fallon for a layup, but Tabor leaped to block the pass. The ball bounced out of bounds off an Edmeston player, giving Milford 2 seconds and a chance for a miracle.
“In the closing minutes, we had worked unbelievably hard to stay in it,” Tabor said. “So when it came down to the final seconds, we knew we just had to push through it and make a play.”
Following a Milford timeout, Griffiths sprinted down the left side of the court and drew the bulk of Edmeston’s defense. That gave Will Ward enough space for a catch-and-shoot from half-court, but his buzzer-beater caught the front iron and the teams headed into overtime.
Milford (17-1) didn’t need a miracle in the extra period, though, outscoring Edmeston, 9-4, to clinch the title.
“They were absolutely fantastic to play against,” Tabor said. “I know it is hard to believe, but I couldn’t dream of a better Tri-Valley championship game.”
The Panthers (17-1) didn’t really see it that way, though.
“To be honest, it is pretty hard to swallow,” said Edmeston coach Darren Belden, whose team made 1 of 10 free throws in the second half, including an 0-for-4 effort in the fourth quarter. “Some of the guys in the locker room are really having a hard time with it. We have to get them ready to go again on Monday, but I am not sure if they will be able to shake it off.
“One-for-10 (from the foul line) and a bunch of turnovers, that’s the key right there,” he continued. “I think we had them beat and then we just started throwing the ball all over the place.”
Griffiths pulled the Wildcats to 32-31 on a putback to end the third quarter. Ward then hit a three-pointer to start the fourth, giving Milford its first lead since the opening basket.
Edmeston tied it at 34 when Wainright retrieved a loose ball near midcourt and scored a transition layup with 6:16 left in regulation. Nick DeVries followed with an inside basket to give Edmeston a 36-34 lead with 4:06 left, but he missed a free throw after drawing a foul on Max Lang.
Griffiths hit an and-one layup off a driving pass from Tabor, drawing a foul on Logan Vibbard while tying the score at 36 with 2:28 to go. He missed the ensuing free throw, and DeVries and Tabor exchanged close-range baskets for a 38-all deadlock.
Fallon’s turnaround jumper off a pass from Kyle King put Edmeston back on top, at 40-38 with 1:34 left. But 20 seconds later, Ward hit a three-pointer off an inbounds pass from Griffiths.
The Panthers took their final lead when Vibbard sank a three-pointer from the left corner with 43 seconds to go. Griffiths’ putback tied the score for the final time and ultimately forced overtime.
Milford struck first in the extra period as Eli Rutledge banked in the go-ahead points off a Griffiths assists about one minute in. Tabor then batted away another interior pass, and Griffith turned the loose ball into a layup for a 47-43 Milford lead.
Fallon then drew a foul on Ward while making a layup but failed to convert the free throw as Edmeston trailed, 47-45.
Milford then went 5-for-8 from the foul line to put the game away. The Panthers’ last points came on two free throws by Lucas Miller in the final seconds.
“My guys stuck with it,” Milford coach Frank Spurchise said. “There were so many times that they could have folded their tents, but they never did.
“Every kid contributed to this win,” he continued. “Even the kids that didn’t play in the game played a part because we had a game plan, and in practice all week, they worked hard to execute it for us.”
Edmeston led, 13-4, after one quarter on the strength of an 11-0 run. Fallon scored nine of his team’s 13 points in the period.
Although the Panthers maintained a seven-to-eight-point cushion for much of the second quarter, Tabor said the Wildcats never panicked.
“When we went in there (at halftime), we were just talking about how much fun the game was,” Tabor said. “We didn’t need to say much. We just needed to go back out and play our game.”
Vibbard and Griffiths shared game-high scoring honors with 18 points apiece. Ward contributed 16 points for Milford, which received nine from Tabor.
Fallon finished with 13 points for Edmeston, but his foul troubles in the second half forced the Panthers to look for points from the perimeter.
“He’s had that issue all year,” Belden said. “It isn’t a big deal that he picked up fouls, but it hurts when he gets fouls that are 80 feet away from the basket.”
The East Division champion Wildcats avenged their only loss of the season as West Division winner Edmeston won their regular-season meeting, 64-57, on Jan. 17 in Milford.
Top-seeded Edmeston, which has a first-round bye, and third-seeded Milford are on opposite sides of the Section Four Class D Tournament bracket. That means they can only meet again this season if they both advance to the March 1 sectional final back at O-State.
“I hope we do play them again,” Tabor said. “I really do. That would be a fun game, too.”
Neither coach is looking that far ahead, though.
“We’ve got a tough game on Tuesday,” said Spurchise, whose Wildcats host a sectional opener against Deposit on Tuesday. “If it does happen, it would be a great game though.”
The Panthers will be home for a sectional quarterfinal against Stamford or Margaretville.
“There’s no guarantee we will get back here,” Belden said. “We’ve got to play the winner of Stamford and Margaretville and those are two good teams. Either one of them could beat us if we don’t bounce back. This time of year, you can go out quickly if you are not ready.”
Milford 52, Edmeston 47
Saturday at Oneonta State
MILFORD (17-1): Blake Elliott 0 0-0 0, Peyton Griffiths 7 4-8 18, Will Ward 6 0-0 16, Paul VanWarner 0 0-0 0, Brian Atwell 0 0-0 0, Max Lang 2 1-2 5, Jacob Tabor 4 1-2 9, Eli Rutledge 2 0-0 4. TOTALS: 21 6-12 52.
EDMESTON (17-1): Linton Wainright 1 0-3 2, Logan Vibbard 7 0-1 18, Brandon Fallon 6 1-3 13, Kyle King 1 0-2 3, Clayton Lyon 0 5-5 5, Lucas Miller 0 2-2 2, Nick DeVries 2 0-3 4. TOTALS: 17 8-19 47.
Milford 4 14 13 12 9 - 52
Edmeston 13 12 7 11 4 - 47
Three-point field goals: M 4 (Ward 4); E 5 (Vibbard 4, King).