NEW YORK MILLS – In a game featuring inexperienced teams, as expected, both West Canada Valley and New York Mills showed promise and growing pains.
In the end it was West Canada Valley’s athletic backcourt that got the better of New York Mills’ strong post play as the Indians edged the Marauders 61-53 at Beekman Gym in the Center State Conference Division IV opener for both schools.
“If we can do a better job of executing when it matters, we’ll be okay,” West Canada Valley head coach Dustin Cool said. “This is new to these guys, playing at the varsity level. We just need to handle the man-to-man pressure and do a better job of executing and not panicking and dribbling into trouble.”
Andrew Thomas scored 16 points, Matt Tobin had 14 and Travis Comins 11 for the Indians (1-0, 1-1). John Mitchell led all scorers with 21 points and Jake Vennaro had 15 for the Marauders (0-1, 1-3). Kenny Egan had 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists for NY Mills.
After the Marauders scored the game’s first five points, the Indians responded with an 18-2 run to end the quarter as Thomas led the way with seven points. West Canada Valley came out firing, and its full-court press forced numerous turnovers leading to easy buckets. Comins really sparked the defense and twice worked steals into lay-ins at the other end to help West Canada Valley build an early lead.
“When I get out there on the floor I try to bring life to the team,” Comins said. “That’s what I believe my job is on this team.”
The Indians stretched their advantage to 27-14 midway through the second quarter, but the Marauders responded as their three seniors (Egan, Mitchell and Vennaro) scored 18 of their 22 points in the second quarter to knot the game at 29 at the break. During Mills’ run, Vennaro led the way by hitting three 3-pointers.
Tobin had 10 of his 16 in the frenetic second half and Thomas had some big hoops to make sure the Indians rebounded from last week’s tough season-opening loss to Herkimer.
“They definitely had a lot of momentum going into half,” Thomas said of New York Mills. “We did a good job in the third quarter turning it around and taking it away from them. It was definitely nice to get the win. Last game was a tough setback versus Herkimer and we showed we can execute and make plays when we needed them.”
In a back-and-forth third quarter, Mills held a 36-34 lead before a quick 6-0 run by the Indians gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Tobin led the charge with back-to-back drives for baskets, and Thomas hit a short jumper to give the Indians a 40-36 advantage. The teams traded buckets to finish out the quarter, and a 3-pointer by Collin Williams gave West Canada a 48-32 lead heading into the fourth.
Mitchell, who scored eight points in the third quarter, scored the first five of the fourth to pull the Marauders to within a point. After another Tobin steal and lay-in, Egan’s put back made it 50-49 midway through the quarter. Tobin then hit a 3-pointer and made one of two foul shots to extend the lead to 54-49. New York Mills twice closed to within three points and had a chance right until the final minute.
Clinging to a 56-53 lead, the Indians forced another turnover and the Indians’ Jacob Smith could’ve decided to run the clock, but instead decided to pull up and drill a 3-pointer to give his team a six-point advantage with 59 seconds remaining. It was one of those shots that coaches go ‘no, no …. yes.’
“It always seems to work that way,” Cool said. “When you don’t want them to do something, they make a shot.”
Thomas added a breakaway bucket to finish out the scoring and close out the victory for the Indians.
“We got up and then were down and we came back and got a big league win for us. It’s a good way to get things started in the league.”
There are many challenges for New York Mills’ new head coach Mike Meyers. He’s replacing legendary head coach Mike Adey, who piled up 566 victories in his career at Rome Catholic, New Hartford and New York Mills. During his 18 years at Mills, Adey won nine Section III Class D titles and two state championships (2011 and 2014).
Meyers also has the challenge of not having a superstar to help his team through struggles. This season marks the first time in a while that the Marauders don’t boast one of the best players in the state. They went from Fred Russ to Nick Comenale to Terry Nichols. All three won Class D state Player of the Year honors during their prolific careers.
“We are still trying to find ourselves,” said Meyers, who coached girls varsity basketball for 10 years at Canton High School. “And individuals are trying to find their roles. Tonight, one team would go on a run and then the other team would make a run. It was one of those games where the inexperience showed. I told the team it’s just December and that we’ll be okay. We’ve made great progress already from where we started.”
The Marauders have a group of solid performers that’ll have to work together and learn different ways to win as they can’t rely on the 25 points per game that Nichols provided last season. Their frontcourt is strong with Egan, Mitchell and Vennaro.
The Marauders’ success the remainder of this season will hinge on how quickly their backcourt can gain experience and learn how to run the team efficiently. Sophomore Alex Matrassi and juniors Justin Ellsworth and Nicholas Briggs-Ellenberger had some good moments Thursday, but experience is vital, especially in the backcourt.
“With Kenny and John, we do have the advantage over most teams if we can get the ball over halfcourt,” Meyers said. “We have a young backcourt with two juniors and a sophomore with little varsity experience. We just get sped up and make wrong reads that result in too many turnovers. They’ll get better with more experience.”
West Canada Valley 61, New York Mills 53
WCV 18 11 19 13—61
NYM 7 22 13 11—53
WCV (1-1): Andrew Thomas 6-2 16; Matt Tobin 6-1 14; Travis Comins 5-1 11; Collin Williams 2-0 6; Jacob Smith 2-0 6; Cory Collard 1-0 2; Ben Clarke 1-0 2; Mason Schloop 2-0 4. Totals: 25-4-61. 3-pointers, 7 (Smith 2, Williams 2, Thomas 2, Tobin).
NYM (1-3): John Mitchell 8-5 21; Kenny Egan 5-1 11; Jake Vennaro 6-0 15; Nick Briggs-Ellenberger 2-1 6. Totals: 21-7-53. 3-pointers, 4 (Vennaro 3, Briggs-Ellenberger).
JV: West Canada 55-27.
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at