BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO — Owego put its 21-game home win streak on the line against unbeaten and state-ranked M-E here Thursday night. Had it not been for a handful of fourth-quarter turnovers, the Indians might have pulled off the upset instead of ending up on the short side of a 47-45 STAC Metro verdict.
The Spartans, ranked 20th in Class A, rallied from a 7-point deficit over the final seven minutes to escape with their perfect record in tact.
"I think the kids played really, really hard and really well at times," said Owego coach Chris Evans. "It was just a few turnovers that actually could have gone either way. They're hacking and smacking and sometimes the referees can see it and sometimes they can't and that's kind of what happened. If we'd gotten a few calls that went our way, it's a different score."
Brendan Evans scored on a 3-pointer 51 seconds into the final period, allowing Owego to match its biggest lead of the game at 40-33.
Then, with the score 40-34, M-E's Mike Mancini and Jack McFadden scored off turnovers just 25 seconds apart to cut the lead to 40-38.
The Indians were forced into a couple of timeouts, missed two shots underneath, then traded turnovers with the Spartans as the teams headed into the final four minutes.
Still, Owego managed to cling to the lead on the strength of its defense — until Mancini drained a three with 3:34 to go, putting M-E up, 41-40.
A Santino Abar free throw made it 42-40 and another Indian turnover led to Connor Green's basket and a 44-40 lead with 2:05 left.
Owego would turn the ball over again with 1:29 on the clock and Green knocked down a trey to give M-E a 47-40 cushion.
The Indians called a time out and regrouped. Hamed drained a three at 1:13, and Mike Wasyln hit a pair of free throws with 43.8 seconds remaining, trimming the lead to 47-45.
Meanwhile, M-E missed the front end of one-and-one situations, but Owego would turn the ball over with two seconds left on the clock, sending the Spartans scurrying onto the court in celebration.
"They acted like they just won the Super Bowl, so that says something about us," coach Evans said. "We won 21 in a row here in this gym."
The game started out with a back-and-forth battle, but M-E closed out the first quarter with a 9-point run to go ahead, 16-7.
The Indians didn't seem to be fazed, holding the Spartans to four second-quarter points.
"Our defense has carried us all year long," coach Evans said. "Our defense has rely been tremendous. And it's all five guys being really, really well-connected. The movement and the footwork ... it's been a joy to watch. They play hard and they like playing together."
Early buckets by Joey Higgins and Wasyln cut the gap to 16-12, M-E pushed it to 20-12, then the Indians went on a 10-0 run to close out the half.
Cam Doane and Mason Rieg scored a little over a minute apart, then Hamed tallied on back-to-back treys with 55 and 30 seconds left to make it 22-20 in Owego's favor at intermission.
Hamed and Wasyln teamed up for 14 of the Indians' 15 third-quarter points. The Indians would go up by seven twice before McFadden's three with 47 seconds on the clock cut the lead to 37-33 heading into the final period.
Hamed and Wasyln shared game-high scoring honors with 17 points each. Hamed finished with five treys while Wasyln was 5-for-7 at the free throw line.
"We're offensively challenged at times because we don't have a lot of shot makers," coach Evans said. "We have some shot takers. We don't have a lot of shot makers. We need more shot makers. We have two, but one of them is 5-foot-8. Evan, making shots. Michael Wasyln can score inside, but we just need a few more points from other people."
Evans and Higgins contributed three points each, Rieg and Doane had two apiece, and Nick Wasyln added a point.
Green and McFadden scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, to lead M-E (7-0).
Owego (6-5) is off until Jan. 17 when it visits Corning.
IN PHOTO 1: Owego's Devon Johnson ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.
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