BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO - Both Owego and Waverly were dealing with some shooting issues - Owego was knocking down a few three-pointers, but struggled at the stripe while Waverly was making the free throws, but struggled to connect from beyond the arc.
The Wolverines also relied on some impressive defense at times to make a game of it, but the top-seeded Indians were still able to turn back the upset-minded visitors, 61-52, in the Section IV Class B semifinals here Thursday evening.
The Indians actually found themselves trailing, 29-28, at halftime, but regrouped during the break and outscored Waverly, 20-13, in the third period to take the lead for good, 48-42.
"This gets us where we wanted to be this season, which is back at the Arena playing for a sectional title," said Owego head coach Luke McEvoy.
"Halftime talk was literally we've been in games like this that were tight like this," McEvoy said. "We didn't play a very strong second quarter and Waverly played a really good second quarter to get that lead at halftime. Basically, the idea at halftime was to come out here in the third quarter and kind of do the things we've been doing all season long, and take it a couple minutes at a time."
Trailing, 35-34, the Indians went on an 8-0 run midway through the frame, thanks to a pair of Kaci Donovan threes, and Anna Felice's steal and assist on a Donovan basket in between.
"She hit some big shots," Kelly said of Donovan.
Donovan scored 10 points while Coleman tallied eight more. Lauren Angelone accounted for the other two points for the Indians. Paige Lewis would connect for the Wolverines' only three of the game, and she and Alex and Sidney Tomasso would score four points each. Adams added the other point.
Waverly continued to fight hard in the fourth quarter. After Donovan went to the bench midway through the period with what appeared to be a leg cramp, Hammond and Sidney Tomasso each responded with a steal and layup - 18 seconds apart - to cut the the lead to 52-50.
"We battled back and there was no give in this group," Kelly said. "They battled and I thought we were going to have an opportunity there."
The Indians would call a timeout and then Larissa Fisher responded with what McEvoy tagged a "huge" three to make it 55-50 with 2:41 remaining in the game. The Wolverines answered back with two Lewis free throws at 2:27.
With her team up three, Felice, who struggled throughout the night to get accustomed to her face guard (she broke her nose in the STAC championship game 13 days ago) made a short field goal then hit four clutch free throws in the final 2:05 to clinch the victory.
"We fought through a lot of different things throughout the entire season, especially late in the season," McEvoy said, noting that in this game the Indians had to deal with Donovan's cramps (twice), Felice's mask issue, some injuries and foul troubles.
"It's just a great team win," he added. "Other girls really stepped up to make enough plays to get us through tonight."
Waverly head coach Bob Kelly said it was probably his team's worst shooting performance of the season, but he doesn't believe it was nerves that affected his team's shooting performance.
"Most of them are returners, so I don't necessarily think so. Maybe it was. They didn't seem nervous. They seemed kind of loose. They seemed ready," he said. "We didn't shoot the ball here last year very well. It's a dark gym. Lighting's not very good, but it doesn't matter. Two teams are out there and you've got to put the ball in the basket and we really struggled shooting tonight.
"We put a lot of effort in. I don't think we were tired, because we play like this all the time. I think we had just a poor shooting night and it really hurt us tonight. A good group, great group of kids, and they battled 32 minutes. They gave it their all. It's tough to swallow. I'll be honest with you."
The Indians followed a Wendi Hammond basket to open the contest with a seven-point run, but Waverly would turn three straight turnovers into a six-point burst and an 8-7 edge. Up, 12-10, Owego scored the final seven points of the period to grab a 19-10 advantage.
Penn State-bound Donovan scored 10 of her game-high 27 points in the first quarter, and Evee Coleman added six of her 20. Hammond scored a pair of baskets, Alex Tomasso went 4-for-4 at the line an Sidney Tomasso had a basket for the Wolverines.
However, the second quarter belonged to the Wolverines, who outscored Owego by 10 points to grab a 29-28 edge at the half. Hammond hit a trio of field goals, Sidney Tomasso added two buckets, Paige Lewis tacked on four points, and Alex Tomasso added two more free throws to her total. Lauren Newman chipped in with a basket and Morgan Adams made a free throw. The Indians got five points from Donovan and four from Coleman.
"I thought we had a decent plan," Kelly said. "I thought our pressure could cause them problems and we thought it did. At times we just had a couple lapses in it. We knew how they were going to attack and they were able to attack. They're very good at it. They're very patient. They've got a very good outside-in game and it's tough to defend. It really is. They handle the basketball very well. I thought our pressure was solid. I really did. I thought we did a decent job on the glass and I think if we were able to convert some shots, I think we would have saw a little bit different things. It's part of the game. They're good team and we're a good team. I'm very proud of my team."
In addition to Donovan's 27 points and Coleman's 20, the Indians received six from Felice, four from Fisher and two each by Lauren Angelone and Zoe Mahon.
Donovan hit 11 of 20 shots, going 4-for-7 from beyond the arc, and had 12 rebounds to make it a double-double. She also dished out four assists and grabbed three steals. Likewise, Coleman recorded a double-double as well as she pulled down 10 boards. She made eight of 13 shots, and also had three blocks, three steals and two assists.
Felice only hit one of her six field goal attempts, but went 4-for-4 at the stripe. The Indians had made less than half their foul shots (6-for-14) before Felice's trips to the line in the fourth quarter. She also added four steals, two rebounds and an assist to the win.
In addition to her big trey, Fisher handed out three assists and grabbed boards, and Angelone added two steals and two boards.
The Wolverines produced a balanced scoring attack with Hammond setting the pace scoring 14 points. The Tomasso's added a dozen points apiece and Lewis chipped in another 10. Newman and Adams added two points each.
Alex Tomasso was a perfect 8-for-8 at the foul line and Lewis went 5-for-6.
Kelly said it would be difficult to bid farewell to his seniors - Hammond, Newman, Alex Tomasso, Sabrina Pierce and Natalia Urrejola.
"It's extremely hard," he said. "Beside being athletes they're just great people, great group of kids, very enjoyable. Just a great group to coach. I really, really enjoyed it."
Waverly finished its season with a 20-2 record.
Owego (19-1) goes on to face Norwich in the championship game Saturday evening.
IN PHOTO 1: Owego's Zoe Mahon. ... PHOTOS 1-19 BY TIM TAYLOR. PHOTOS 20-24 COURTESY OF MARK BAKLEY.
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