FC, Tunkhannock score Pruitt tourney wins
BY HEIDI ZENEFSKI
The 12th Annual Zach Pruitt Memorial Basketball Tournament was held at Blue Ridge High School on Saturday, Dec. 21.
Six local junior high schools participated in this yearly event by bringing a 7th grade team and an 8th grade team to compete for the championship at each grade level.
The tournament is held each year at Blue Ridge High School as a tribute to Zach Pruitt, an exceptional junior high basketball player who was named MVP at the end of the 2001/02 season by his team.
Several months later, Zach was killed in a tragic accident on July 17, 2002. He was 13-years-old at the time of his death.
That winter the tournament was established by Zach’s uncle, Gary McIntyre, as a way to fund two $500 scholarships given to Blue Ridge High School Seniors in Zach’s name each year. Extra money earned at the tournament is donated to the basketball program to provide shoes and other equipment to basketball players.
The tournament is run by Zach’s family – mother, Brenda Pruitt; his younger brothers Dylan and Jesse Pruitt; his aunt, uncle, cousins, and close friends of the family.
According to his family, Zach loved basketball, was funny, and had a lot of friends.
His brother, Dylan, now 21- years-old said, “Zach taught me everything I know about sports and to never give up.”
The tournament started at 8 a.m. sharp with two games scheduled every 45 minutes throughout the day. The games were shortened with two, 12 minute halves and running clock to keep things moving in the double elimination format. This pace meant there was not much down time for the players, audience, the referees, and especially those running the tournament. It was quite an accomplishment to pull off this tournament in one day. In past years, the tournament has been held as a two-day event.
The first games of the day were played by Montrose and Forest City in the 8th grade bracket, with Forest City earning the win by one point at the final buzzer with a score of 32-31.
The 8:45 game for the 8th graders was played by Susquehanna and Tunkhannock. The Tunkhannock team, coached by Stan Harder handily defeated the Sabers coached by Jeff Baldwin 33-6.
The 9:30 a.m. time slot saw the 8th graders of Blue Ridge taking on the winners of the 8:00 game, the Foresters of Forest City, coached by Kirk Fallon. Forest City again showed their mettle by defeating Blue Ridge 23-9 to keep their winning streak alive.
The 8th graders from Tunkhannock and Elk Lake, coached by Kevin Tewksbury, squared off at 10:15. with the Tigers beating the Warriors 22-15.
The 11 a.m. games marked the half-way point of the tournament. The home team, Blue Ridge Raiders defeated Susquehanna in a nail-biter with a final score of 18-17, effectively knocking the Sabers out of the tournament by handing them their second loss of the morning.
Forty-five minutes later Montrose, coached by Cody Ivey, took on the Elk Lake Warriors for what would be the Meteors’ final game of the day and second heart-breaking loss by one point. The Warriors defeated the Meteors 27-26 and knocked them out of the tournament.
The 12:30 match-up placed the two physically biggest teams, Forest City and Tunkhannock, at the tournament into competition. The players on these teams seemed to loom over every other team present, but were fairly evenly matched while playing each other.
Forest City beat the Tigers by a score of 27-24 to remain the only undefeated 8th grade team in the tournament and sending the shocked Tunkhannock team into the loser’s bracket.
The next match (at 1:15 p.m.) brought about a physical game played by Blue Ridge and Elk Lake. Both teams fought hard for the win to avoid the second loss of the day which would send one of the teams home.
The Warriors reached deep to defeat the Raiders 24-10 and survive to play another game.
In the 7th grade bracket, Tunkhannock dominated the home team, Blue Ridge coached by Kris Gardner, which put up a fight to defend their home gym but fell to the much taller Tiger team.
The 7th grade 8:45 a.m. game was played by Montrose, coached by Joe Gilhool and Forest City which is coached by Brent Keyes, just as the 8:00 game had been played by the 8th graders. This time, the final score favored the Montrose Meteors in this tight match which won with a final score of 15-13 to send Forest City into the loser’s bracket.
In the 7th grade gym Elk Lake, which is coached by Todd Greenwood, was taking on Dan Davidson’s Tunkhannock Tigers at 9:30 a.m. Tunkhannock won the game by a score of 22-15.
Then at 10:15 a.m., Susquehanna and Montrose were battling it out on the court. The Sabers handed the Meteors their first loss of the tournament with a score of 25-18.
The Forest City 7th graders suffered their second loss of the day to the Elk Lake Warriors with a final score of 16-12.
Meteor 7th-graders dominated Blue Ridge from the start of the game, never allowing the Raiders to get close and eliminating the home team from the tournament with a score of 23-11.
Like the 12:30 p.m., 8th grade game, the 7th grade game was also being played by the two teams with the biggest players on the court; Tunkhannock and Susquehanna.
The game was a defensive battle with the Tigers defeating the Sabers in a low scoring game, 10-2, to remain the only undefeated 7th grade team.
Traditional rival teams, Elk Lake and Montrose were squaring off for the first time at the junior high level, at 1:15 p.m., in what would prove to be the tournament’s most defensive and low-scoring game.
Due to excellent defensive play, neither team scored during the first half of the game leaving coaches and audience members surprised with a half time tie of 0-0.
At the end of the game Montrose had won, knocking Elk Lake out of the tournament with a final score of 4-0 which seemed much more like the final score of a soccer game than a basketball game.
Only one field goal was scored the entire game by Maverick Beeman and his teammate Hayden Frey doubled the score by making two foul shots.
Both teams shook hands and left with smiles on their faces, realizing something unique had happened.
Parent Greg Rebello said, “I’ve never seen anything like it!”
By 2 p.m., only four games remained to be played out of the 20 game tournament; two for the 8th graders and 2 for the 7th graders.
Elk Lake and Tunkhannock squared off for the second time of the day and end result was the same with Tunkhannock beating Elk Lake 34-16 sending the Warriors home.
With no rest between games, the Montrose 7th graders battled the Susquehanna Sabers again. It was a close game and the Meteors gave the Sabers a run for their money.
Mason Deakin led the Sabers to victory by scoring 9 points to defeat Montrose 19-13 and knocked the Meteors out of the tournament.
The championship games started at 3 p.m., with only two teams at each level remaining. Both games set up a re-match of earlier games.
In the 8th grade gym Forest City took on Tunkhannock.
The Tigers put up a good fight, but were no match for the very physical Foresters, led by Noah Yates.
Forest City earned the championship defeating Tunkhannock, 22-14.
Coach Kirk Fallon said, “The boys played great, worked hard, and they have practiced their tails off by playing all year round, so it’s nice to see their hard work pay off with a championship.”
The 7th grade championship game came down to Tunkhannock versus Susquehanna in a battle of the big men.
A worn out Susquehanna team, playing their second game in a row, was no match for the Tunkhannock team which had been resting for two hours at the start of the game.
The Tigers proved to be too much for the Sabers by beating them much more definitively in this match up with a final score of 33-17 to take home the championship.
“It’s early in the season. We’re continuing to grow and develop. This was a great opportunity for us to play basketball against some quality programs.” said Coach Dan Davidson.
Each player on the tournament winning teams was presented a trophy.
Blue Ridge Athletic Director Jill Hoffman, said she was very pleased with the day’s tournament.