Recorder Sports Staff
FONDA -- Whenever the Fonda-Fultonville Braves and Broadalbin-Perth Patriots renew their boys basketball rivalry, both head coaches -- F-F's Eric Wilson and B-P's Tucker Gifford -- know exactly what to expect: Another tight, physical, low-scoring contest.
Saturday's meeting between the two teams simply took those qualities and exaggerated them a bit.
In a war of attrition that featured 48 personal fouls and saw six players -- four from B-P, two from F-F -- foul out before the night was through, the Braves got 13 points from Will Turner before he fouled out and enough timely foul shooting from Zac Nowak and Ryan Derby down the stretch to hold off B-P and score a 44-37 win in the final game of the two-day Colonial-Foothills Challenge.
"That right there is typical of a Broadalbin-Fonda game," Wilson said. "Every year since we've been playing them, every game is 44-42. It's been very few times when we score over 50 points. It's a dogfight, both teams have guys in foul trouble, both teams have to rely on guys to knock some shots down and some foul shots down. If it was any different, I would've been shocked."
B-P (1-1) had to deal with foul trouble from the start after being whistled for 14 fouls in the first half. Things piled up down the stretch, with Andre Taylor, Ben Bellandi, Mark Sylvia and Luigi Magliocca all fouling out in the game's final seven minutes and 20 seconds, leaving Gifford scratching his head in front of the bench trying to figure out who to plug into the game.
"I didn't know if I could still grab some JVs or something," Gifford said jokingly. "I was almost out of options, in the first half and the second half. They called it tighter than I think Coach Wilson and I would've expected. For a game with Fonda and Broadablin, you expect it's going to be physical. It was, but it was just called really tight."
Through the constant stream of fouls, the Braves (2-0) were able to take control of the game late in the second quarter and never gave the lead back. Down 14-11 two minutes into the second quarter, Fonda-Fultonville struck back with a 12-3 run to close the half.
Zach Valachovic's layup put the Braves up 15-14, a lead they'd never relinquish, while Derby knocked down a key 3-pointer late in the run to help the Braves take a 23-17 lead to the locker room.
"In a game like that, that's all you want to do," Wilson said. "You get a five-point lead, that's a big lead. In this series between Fonda and Broadalbin, a five-point lead is big."
The Braves proceeded to hold B-P at arm's length throughout the entire second half, never letting the Patriots get closer than four points. When he was on the floor, rather than on the bench and in foul trouble, Turner was F-F's best offensive weapon. The 6-foot-7 junior was a force in the post despite drawing double and triple teams, and even got to show off his improving range by knocking down a pair from 3-point range -- including one that pushed the Braves' lead to 38-30 with 3:24 to play in the fourth quarter.
Just 1:13 later, however, Turner picked up his fifth foul and the Braves were forced to hold on down the stretch without him.
Derby acknowledged that playing in such a foul-filled contest was tough to adjust to.
"It was a little nerve-wracking at first, because it's going back and forth and you don't know what's going to happen," the senior guard said. "But, our team, we just came together at the end and made it happen."
Derby, who thanked a raucous home crowd for assisting the Braves' performance in wins over Johnstown and B-P in the two-day event, hit a pair of free throws with 15.6 seconds left to increase F-F's lead to 43-37, while the Braves' defense held the Patriots to just one field goal over the final three minutes to preserve the win.
It may not have been pretty, but Wilson was thrilled to come away with the win and a 2-0 start to the season.
"I'm so proud of the guys. Every one of them, the way they came together as a team tonight, how hard they played," he said. "We made mistakes, but just how hard they played, I couldn't be prouder."