Greg Gamble participated in Empire State Games basketball tryouts because he was just "looking for a good run."
Now that he's here, he's found out that the competition is some serious stuff. In an intense, physical game that had all the feistiness of last year's gold medal final in Rochester, Hudson Valley beat Western again, 78-72, before an estimated 200 at Iona College's Hynes Athletic Center.
Western fell to 1-1 with the loss but is still alive for a medal entering today's noon game against Central.
"We're playing for pride and playing for a medal -- you've got a chance to win a medal at the Empire State Games," said Niagara Falls' Gamble, who had 10 points. "It's definitely more than just a run."
While Western got great play from Gamble and his University at Buffalo buddies Byron Mulkey and Darwin Young, Hudson Valley proved to be too big and too strong in the frontcourt.
Perhaps fittingly, the most crucial bucket of the game came when Marist's 6-foot-8 Ryan Stilphon (10 points) tipped in a rebound of a missed free throw with 20 seconds left. Instead of getting the rebound and a possession that could have erased a two-point deficit, Western fell behind, 76-72, and wouldn't score again.
That followed a key series by Pace's 6-7 Desmond Quincy Jones (12 points), who blocked a shot on one end and then sank two free throws at the other for a 74-70 Hudson Valley lead with 32.2 seconds left. Marist's 6-7 Ryan Schneider led Hudson Valley with 21.
Western was led in scoring by Fairport's 6-4 Ryan McAdam, a Nazareth player, who had 17 points, and Roberts Wesleyan graduate Joe Rebisz (12), who is a slender 6-6. Young, a recent UB grad from Hutch-Tech, had 10 points while Mulkey, a UB sophomore from Niagara-Wheatfield, had seven.
"We're undersized to every team here, but we play hard," said Gamble. "We just got ourselves in a hole. We kept taking quick shots and didn't get it done on defense."
The scholastic team was edged by Hudson Valley, 84-83, to also fall to 0-2. Phil Scaffidi (St. Joe's) had 13 points, Grant Wrap (Frontier) added 10 and Will Regan (Nichols) had eight.