Whitney Point’s basketball season lives, for at least another 32 minutes of game time, thanks to the Zach Factor.
Junior guard Zach Marsh righted a listing Golden Eagles’ vessel Tuesday night with 14 fourth-quarter points and the hosts grabbed a 59-56 win over Chenango Valley in the quarterfinal round of Section 4 Class B playoffs.
Marsh closed with 20 points and 6-foot-5 strongman Gabe Shrauger 19 — 13 of those in a dominant second quarter that concluded with the Point ahead 31-28. That margin was stretched to 11 points twice in the third quarter, only to have CV draw within 43-40 on a steal and subsequent dash for a three-point play by David Trudeaux that drew Marsh’s fourth foul 22 seconds into the final quarter.
From that juncture, Chenango Valley played sound, hungry basketball.
Problem was, Marsh — though one lapse of a foul from buttocks-to-bench — was simply better.
Six-two, strong, savvy and self-assured with basketball in hand, Marsh began his difference-making fourth-quarter barrage with a shorty off a baseline inbound. When he struck for 3 from the left corner via Donovan Sturdevant’s driving dish it was a 48-42 Whitney Point lead with 5:49 to play.
Another 3-pointer from Marsh, this one from the right wing off Brady Harrington’s subtle drop-off, made it a 51-45 advantage but was CV’s cue to shove it into a more enthusiastic gear.
Matt Personius transitioned in solo fashion from three-quarters of the surface for a goal, next rebounded and fed Trudeaux ahead for a bucket, and then whistled a wing-to-block exchange that Kasey Edwards caught and converted to make it 51-all with 3:20 remaining.
Shrauger then crashed to the rim for a finish — leaving a defender on the deck in the process — for a 53-51 Eagles lead, but CV grabbed the upper hand with 2:47 to play when Personius’ cross-the-floor pass set up Trudeaux for a 3-pointer from the wing and it was 54-53.
Ah, but guess who sent Whitney Point into the lead for keeps.
Marsh accepted an inbound, gathered and launched for 3 from the wing and it was 56-54 with 1:54 to play. From there, a turnover and couple missed 3-point attempts by the Warriors coupled with three Marsh free throws made it official.
The night’s last points came when Trudeaux followed a virtual red carpet to the backboard for a wisely unmolested goal a couple seconds from conclusion.
Of his take-charge showing late in the contest, Marsh said: “I don’t know, I just like to think of myself as the guy who has to go out there and get the job done for us.”
“He’s a big-game player,” Eagles coach Steve Morgan said. “Whenever there’s a big game he usually steps up and he scores for us. We need him to do that. Obviously tonight we needed him to do that because they were focusing on Gabe inside.
“The other kids look for him. We’ve got a lot of young kids on the team, and they were looking for him to do something — and this type of situation is where he thrives.”
The big boy doing first-half thriving was Shrauger, not only the most physically imposing presence on the court but by far the most effective, particularly in a man-versus-boys second quarter.
From this post move to that, a finish as semi-trailer on the break, couple free throws and drop-step for the striking finishing goal of the half, Shrauger had his way against overmatched CV defenders. Brawn, desire and know-how around the iron will get 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds worth of teenager a long way in this game.
That second-quarter display followed a relatively quiet opening eight minutes from Shrauger.
“We talked a lot about letting Gabe move and get some space in there because if he sits in the post they can load up with 2-3 guys on him. He got a little freedom by us moving the ball,” Morgan said.
Chenango Valley scorers were topped by Mark Mullins, whose 14 points were byproduct of inside-outside effectiveness that’ll have to be dealt with for another two winters. Trudeaux’s 10 and Personius’ nine were next-best for the guests.
Ahead for Whitney Point is a Friday trip to Norwich to face the 18-0 Purple Tornado, ranked fourth among New York’s Class B teams. Coach Tom Collier was on board to have a fresh look at a team Norwich took care of by 32 points in early-December. For about a quarter-and-a-half, that one was a ballgame.
“We’ll have to play a complete game, get stops on defense and do what we do on offense,” Marsh said.
“We know who they are, we know what they’re going to do. No mystery there, they’re going to play good hard ‘D’ and they have many guys who can score,” Morgan said. ” … We have the experience of playing in their gym, we know we can play with them we just have to be able to sustain it through four quarters.”