BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
BINGHAMTON - Kobe Bogart made scoring look easy Saturday night - maybe too easy. The senior guard scored 15 of the first 21 points in the Section IV Class B championship game. However, Owego would have to turn back a torrid Seton Catholic rally to collect a 54-51 victory at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena.
Bogart made pumping out the points look simplistic as the Indians bolted to a 17-4 first-quarter advantage, but they would have to withstand a torrid Saints comeback in the second quarter.
Owego's first sectional title since 2006 may have given head coach Chris Evans a few gray hairs, but he was thrilled with the triumph over the defending sectional champs.
"It feels just fantastic, especially against such a class program, and so well-coached," said of the the program's fifth sectional championship. "All the credit goes to Seton. They withstood a pretty serious run that we put on them at the beginning the game, and they came back and they played great. It means so much because they're such a great program."
Bogart was delighted as well.
"It feels great, especially after last year. They knocked us off in the section championships," he said. "Revenge is sweet."
Owego led for the first 25 1/2 minutes, but this clash wasn't decided until the final minutes. Seton looked like it would rally to repeat, grabbing a 45-43 lead on a long Tommy Dempsey 3-pointer with 6:22 left in the game. Indian guard Christian Sage fouled out 24 seconds later, putting the possibility of the program's first sectional title since 2006 in further jeopardy.
Instead, Owego rose to the challenge. With the Indians down, 48-45, Isaiah Bishop and Rob Merrill scored 52 seconds apart to give Owego a one-point edge. Merrill's basket came on a coast-to-coast trek with four minutes on the clock.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as Dempsey drained another trey with 3:04 to go. With 1:31 to go, Evan Hamed, who nailed a career-high seven threes in Thursday semifinal win over Norwich but had yet to score a single point in the final, popped a trey to put the Indians in top, 52-51.
Owego would tighten up its defense and get the ball back as the clock ticked under 30 seconds. Bogart would drive the lane, miss in the paint, then tip the ball in for a 54-51 lead with 18 seconds remaining.
Dempsey, usually a sure-handed free throw shooter, missed the front end of a one-and-one with eight second to go, then Bogart did likewise at the other end with four ticks left. Marcus Dyes' last-ditch effort from near mid-court at the buzzer was off the mark.
Dempsey, who canned five threes and went 10-for-10 at the stripe to score 25 points in the STAC championship game, had just two threes and was 2-for-3 at the line this time.
Foul shooting was a concern. Seton made 17 of 21 free throw attempts in the previous meeting, and went 13-for-18 in the first half this time. The Saints finished the game 14-for-21.
"I was afraid that was going to happen here, because what happened there was free throws," Evans said. "We fouled too much. Our defense is great, but we're fouling too much, so we put them on the line too much in Elmira. In the first half, we definitely put them on the line too much. They shot 18 free throws in that first half."
Owego looked like it was going to run away early as Bogart scored his team's first eight points. After Sage picked up a loose ball and took it about two-thirds of the length of the court for a 10-2 lead, Bogart scored on a putback, then nailed a trey to make it 15-2. He scored his final basket of the period with 49 second left and Mike Wasyln converted a traditional 3-point play, giving the Indians a 20-6 advantage heading into the second quarter.
"My teammates were just finding me, basically," Bogart said. "The objective today was to get inside because Tyler (Rumpel) is a great player, but he's a little under-sized to be guarding me. I should have got inside the last time we played them, but I didn't."
Bogart opened the second quarter with a three, but the 17-point bulge wouldn't be nearly enough against the talented Saints as they scored 26 points in the period to tie the game at 32 with 25 second slot in the half. Bogart fired off a shot from beyond the arc at the buzzer - and almost made it - and was fouled in the process. He stepped to the line and promptly deposited three free throws through the rim for a 35-32 lead at the break.
Bogart would score the first points of the third quarter as well, Sage wowed the crowd with some nifty dribbling for a bucket and Bogart added another field goal as Owego clung to a 39-38 edge at the midway point of the period.
Two Bogart buckets pushed the lead to 43-38 heading into the final minute of the quarter, but baskets by Mojo Ajak and Dempsey cut the margin back to a point, 43-42, heading into the final eight minutes.
Bogart finished the game with 34 points.
"He's a stud, just a stud," Evans said. "He had the tip-in there toward the end and he hung tough. I thought he was getting held a lot away from the ball and he didn't. He stayed with it and stayed with it.
"Sage fouled out and the kids hung tough. Nate Bennett came off the bench, gave us great minutes, and that usually doesn't happen. The kids hung tough and we grinded out the win."
Sage added eight points, Wasyln had five, Hamed scored three, and Bishop and Merrill added two apiece as the Indians claimed the fifth Section IV title in school history.
Brett Rumpel led Seton (18-4) with 17 points while Dempsey and Dyes scored 10 apiece.
Owego (18-3) receives a bye in the opening round of the state tournament, then faces the winner of Lowville (19-2) and General Brown (19-3) Saturday at noon at Onondaga Community College's SRC Arena.
IN PHOTO 1: Owego celebrates its first sectional title since 2006. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.
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