Emotions ran high, as they always do, when the Oneida and Vernon Vernon Verona Sherrill boys basketball teams gathered last Tuesday night -- but it was for reasons beyond the events on the court.
Continuing what had been a season-long trend, the Indians, holders of the Tri-Valley League West division title, beat the Red Devils 66-51, though the score didn't reflect how close the game was for most of the night.
Just as big a story, though, was the presence, one last time, of Ang Ottaviano. The 67-year-old Ottaviano had been broadcasting Oneida football and basketball games on the radio station WMCR for 50 years, and this would be his last game before retirement.
Knowing that, and knowing that he had just come off a recent stay in the hospital, Oneida honored Ottaviano prior to the game, giving him a plaque and a commemorative basketball for his half-century of community service.
Ottaviano got to close with a typically exciting Oneida-VVS game. Despite its 4-12 mark, the Red Devils claimed an early 10-6 lead, then stayed close despite constant Indians full-court pressure on point guard Joe Spinella, who replaced an injured Simon Pitman.
Oneida only led by two (28-26) at halftime and by a single point (42-41) going into the fourth quarter, as the lead constantly swerved back and forth. Only when the Indians went on a 13-2 run to start the final period did the hosts get clear.
Benn DeRocker led Oneida (11-6) with 14 points, as Matt Tamburro added 11 points. Andrew Hornyak had eight points, with Jeremy Rodriguez and Keith Johnson earning six points apiece.
For VVS, Spinella had 13 points, while Mitch Iseneker got 10 points. Isaac Pitman had nine points, with Travis Eaton (seven points) and Nick Rizzo (six points) close behind.
As this went on, the Oneida girls team gained a sweet win at VVS, rallying past the Red Devils 45-41.