BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
BINGHAMTON — Norwich didn’t knock down nine 3-pointers in the first half like it did in the STAC championship game. However, the Purple Tornado still brought its relentless defensive pressure to defeat Owego, 66-42, in the Section IV Class B championship game at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena here Saturday.
“They’re phenomenal,” said Owego head coach Luke McEvoy. “When you have those types of athletes, to do what they’re capable of doing, there’s nobody else around that puts that kind of pressure on you, so it’s tough to prepare for, and they were a little overwhelming for the girls tonight.”
The Indians captured the momentum early, building a 9-1 advantage in the first 4:15 on four free throws from Kaci Donovan and a pair of baskets by Evee Coleman. Norwich’s Halea Eaton hit a pair of free throws and Sydney Coggins followed with a trey 46 seconds later to cut the lead to 9-6. Anna Felice finished out the period with three points as Owego carried an 11-9 edge into the second quarter.
The Tornado would find their range from beyond the arc in the second period, taking advantage of some open shot opportunities to can four threes and build a 37-19 cushion at the half.
“I thought first quarter we played the game we wanted to play it,” McEvoy said. “We had too many turnovers. I think we had nine the first quarter, but they didn’t lead directly to points. Our defense was solid. We moved. We communicated well.
“Second quarter, I think the frustration of dealing with the pressure kind of compounded on the defensive end and the girls kind of lost their composure there. They didn’t communicate as well with each other, didn’t rotate as well with each other, which gave them some open threes. I thought the threes, early on we contested most of them, but the open threes, when they’ve got good shooters, they’re going to knock them down.”
Coggins nailed her second trey of the night in the second quarter while Eaton, Saige Benedict and Triniti Myers drained one apiece to fuel a 28-point burst. Benedict finished the period with seven points and Abby Flynn scored eight to fuel the Norwich effort. Meanwhile, the defense held Donovan in check, and Felice scored four of the Indians’ eight points in the frame.
Owego regrouped at the break and outscored Norwich, 8-2, to start the second half with Coleman notching three buckets.
With the Indians trailing, 41-27, Donovan would be called for a controversial foul as the quarter neared its midway point, then was assessed a technical foul shortly afterward.
“We made a run the third quarter,” McEvoy said. “That’s all I said at halftime, there’s still a lot of time. We dug ourselves a huge hole, especially in the last two minutes of the second quarter to let them go up big by 20 or whatever it was. The goal was to get it under 20 and hopefully under 15, and I think we had it at 14 or whatever, then she got her fourth and really couldn’t keep her cool on the sideline with the official and that cost her the rest of the game and definitely hurt us. When she’s not out there it’s going to hurt.”
The Tornado would finish off an 8-0 run to push their lead to 47-27, then Coleman went 5-for-6 at the free throw line to trim the lead to 47-32. Norwich would end the period on Eaton’s buzzer-beating trey to take a 53-32 advantage into the final period.
Norwich would score 10 consecutive points spanning the third and fourth quarters before Camryn Kopalek stopped the run with a basket early in the final stanza. The Tornado would counter with six more points to make it 63-34.
Felice nailed a trey and follow-up free throw, Lauren Angelone added a field goal and a foul shot, and Kopalek made a free throw as the Indians ended their scoring with an 8-point run.
Norwich spread its scoring out with 1o of its 12 players putting points on the board. Flynn led the way with 15 and Eaton added 12 for the 21-1 Tornado.
Coleman put up a game-high 17 points for Owego and Felice pumped out 13 more. Kopalek added five, Donovan had four and Angelone scored three. Despite the loss, the Indians finished the season with an impressive 19-2 record.
“As I told the girls before the game, no matter what happens tonight, obviously we were hoping to come out here and win, nobody can take away the season they had,” McEvoy said. “To have an undefeated regular season was incredible. They battled every single night. To win a big sectional game against Waverly, the incredible team that they were, was another big win, and our two losses are to a really, really good Norwich team that will be dangerous come state playoff time.
"Not the way we wanted to end tonight. I think the girls will be proud of the season they had once they have some time to look back at it. Tonight hurts, obviously. I think we had bigger aspirations and just like last year, to walk off this court, to keep our heads held high, and as we keep saying, we keep raising the bar, to come back next year, and get over this hurdle and see what the next round feels like.”
IN PHOTO 1: Owego’s Evee Coleman. … PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.
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