ONEONTA — Dan Lincoln will forever be known in Morris circles as the one who got away.
Lincoln’s runaway layup with 14.3 seconds left Saturday epitomized the Section Four Class D boys basketball championship game as Morris failed to catch Marathon in a 60-55 loss at Oneonta State.
“That was exactly the last thing I said: You’ve got to be careful that they don’t go deep,” said Mustangs coach Dave Sander, who called a timeout after Mike DeLuca floated in for a catch-and-shoot putback to pull top-seeded Morris to 58-55. “I said, the big guys, those guys are the guys who are going to go deep. They want their guards in the front-court.”
As they did virtually the entire game, the Mustangs shadowed 10th-seeded Marathon (10-12) as it set up an inbounds play from the Morris baseline.
“We were stacked up and I was supposed to go and like do a screen and then just took off running,” said Lincoln, who caught Kody Barry’s baseball pass in stride just after half-court and dribbled in to score the final points on an uncontested layup. “We run it during practice for when everyone’s man-to-man full-court. It worked before, during the regular season.”
This game had anything but a regular-season feel, though.
Although Morris led only three times — at 2-0, 4-2 and 13-11 during the first quarter — the Mustangs never trailed by more than seven points. That happened twice, and Morris erased both deficits with 7-0 runs. Levi Decker hit crucial three-point field goals during each comeback spurt, helping the Mustangs to tie the score at 39-39 late in the third quarter and at 49-49 with 2:38 left.
“They just kept coming back and coming back,” said Marathon coach Jim Holland, whose team won its first sectional title since 1994 and will play Section Three champion New York Mills (19-3) in a state quarterfinal at 5 p.m. Saturday back at O-State. “They were tenacious on the boards — all of them. We just couldn’t seem to get ahead. We were up four and we were trying to get up by eight. That way if we missed foul shots, it’s OK. But we just couldn’t get up by eight.”
Said Sander, whose Tri-Valley League championship team ended its season at 18-2: “It was 49-49. We just couldn’t get over that hump.”
A lot of that had to do with the play of Marathon’s Jeff Contri, a 6-foot-2 forward who scored 12 of his game-high 21 points after halftime. Contri also grabbed a team-best five rebounds, but his biggest contribution may have been his seven blocked shots.
“We did a pretty good job on (Contri) for a while, but he still got his points,” Sander said. “And he erased 10 points of ours, probably. How many blocks did he have?”
DeLuca made 1 of 2 free throws to tie it at 49, but Contri put Marathon back on top with a short banker from the right side. Tyler Hoellerer’s basket from the right side of the baseline made it 53-49 with 1:28 left, and Barry made both ends of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity for a 55-49 cushion with 53 seconds to go.
Zach Brandstat hit 3 of 4 foul shots to keep Marathon slightly ahead as the high-flying DeLuca scored Morris’ last six points on lay-ins.
That set up Lincoln for the decisive basket, which capped his 10-point night.
“He’s our fastest guy up the floor,” Holland said. “So it’s a screen for him and he goes.”
Barry put an exclamation point on the upset victory, getting all of Decker’s three-point attempt at the buzzer for a game-ending block.
“I can’t really fault my guys,” Sander said. “I thought we played well. I thought they just played about five points better.”
Brandstat finished with 11 points and four steals for the Olympians of the Interscholastic Athletic Conference, who limited their turnovers to eight.
DeLuca’s 19 points and 16 rebounds paced the Mustangs, who received 12 points from Decker and 12 more on four three-pointers from Cody Myers.
“This is a great, great, great group of guys,” said Sander, who also got four steals from Kerry Smith. “They’re just a wonderful group of young men. I’ve had no problems, they do what they’re supposed to do, I don’t have to worry about trouble in school. I love each and every one of them, truly.”
Marathon 60, Morris 55
SECTION FOUR CLASS D
Championship at Oneonta State
10-MARATHON (10-12): Dan Lincoln 5 0-0 10, Kody Barry 2 2-2 7, Zach Brandstat 3 3-5 11, Cody Morrison 0 0-0 0, Dan Wickham 0 0-0 0, Tyler Hoellerer 2 1-2 5, Isaiah Brooks 3 0-0 6, Jeff Contri 9 3-4 21. TOTALS: 24 9-13 60.
1-MORRIS (18-2): Kerry Smith 2 0-0 4, Levi Decker 5 0-0 12, Mike DeLuca 8 3-6 19, Andrew Staib 1 0-0 2, Andrew Dougherty 0 0-0 0, Cody Myers 4 0-0 12, Skylar Maricle 2 2-4 6. TOTALS: 22 5-10 55.
Marathon 19 16 8 17 — 60
Morris 15 17 7 16 — 55
Three-point field goals: Mar 3 (Barry, Brandstat 2); Mor 6 (Decker 2, Myers 4). Rebounds: Mar 16 (Contri 5); Mor 26 (DeLuca 16). Turnovers: Mar 8; Mor 14.
Dean Russin can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.