BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
NEWARK VALLEY — Newark Valley and Southern Cayuga tangled in a back-and-forth IAC crossover game here Thursday with the Chieftains securing a 55-48 victory behind some key free throw shooting down the stretch.
"This one hurt," said NV head coach Scott Stratton. "Coming off an exciting win on Tuesday, this one hurt, especially being Senior Night. Everybody wants to win on Senior Night. It doesn't happen for everybody, unfortunately, but we had our chance. We definitely had a chance.
"We didn't do a good job defending the dribble penetration at points in the game and that kind of hurt us. Guys had to help and ended up picking up some fouls on the help side. And we didn't shoot the ball well from the foul line either, especially in the third quarter. We had four tries and missed all of them and that kind of hurt.
"Then, in the fourth quarter, we had some empty possessions when I thought we had decent ball movement and we had some pretty good looks. We just didn't come away with anything and they finished the game off. Congrats to them for putting the nails in the coffin on us. They made seven out of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the deal."
The lead would change hands 11 times with the Chiefs going ahead for good with a 7-0 run as the midway point of the third quarter approached. A Nick Thurston free throw, a fast break bucket by Nate Thurston, and back-to-back baskets from Steven Sherman gave SC a 31-26 lead.
The Cardinals weren't going to go away on Senior Night, however, as Raidyn Ford and Riley Malone closed the gap to 31-30.
Then, after SC scored five straight points, Connor Spoonhower drained a 3-pointer, Hunter Kelly blocked a shot and Donavin Beebe brought the student section to its feet with an alley-oop dunk.
"Connor shot the ball really well tonight," Stratton said. "I'm excited about him coming back next year and being one of our main shooters. His shot is so pure. It doesn't matter what gym you go into. I feel like he's got one of the pure shots of anybody sitting in the gym or playing in the gym. He just looks really good and there are nights when he can go off and tonight was one of those nights.
"Donavin's dunk, we've been trying to get Donavin going in terms of accelerating up and dunking the basketball, even in the half-court. Maybe tonight will be that spark that turns the corner for him and he realizes just how athletic he is and just how hard he can dunk the ball if he really wants to. It was a really nice play. It got the crowd going at that moment. We didn't capitalize on that momentum as much as I wished we would have."
Nate Thurston came back with a trey for SC, then Spoonhower knocked down his second buzzer-beating three of the evening and NV would trail by a point, 39-38 heading into the final frame.
Another trey from Nate Thurston, and a pair of free throws and a basket by Jackson Otis gave Southern Cayuga a 46-40 lead with 3:50 left.
Again, the Cardinals attempted to battle back. Beebe scored from underneath then, after Sherman went coast to coast with a rebound, Ford drove the lane to cut make the score 48-44.
Unfortunately for NV, Otis asserted himself as the go-to guy in the final 1 1/2 minutes. He hit a shot from close in, added a free throw following a Sherman steal, blocked a shot and hit another free throw, giving the visitors a 52-46 lead with 22.4 seconds left on the clock.
"We put him on the line a bunch of times," Stratton said. "He was getting to the hoop really well. He made free throws, but in general, they made free throws. They made 19 of them. They shot a really good percentage, 19 out of 26.
"That was one of our focuses at halftime. We have to defend without fouling.
Ford would make it 52-48 with 15 seconds to go, but SC got two free throws from Jared Howe and another from Nate Thurston.
An Ethan Bigelow trey and a Ford layup gave NV its first lead of the night, 7-4, and back-to-back field goals by Caden Bennett made it 11-6 late in the first quarter, but SC rallied and tied the contest at 11 before the period ended.
The lead changed hands six times in the second quarter with the Chiefs going on a 7-0 run in the last 2 1/2 minutes of the half before Spoonhower drained his first buzzer-beating three of the night.
The Chiefs (8-10) were powered by balanced scoring. Nick Thurston notched a game-high 14 points, Sherman had 12, and Nate Thurston and Otis had 11 and 10, respectively.
NV was led by Ford's 12 points. Spoonhower added nine, Bennett had eight, Beebe and Jaden Short scored six apiece, Bigelow chipped in with three, and Brenton Rosenberg and Jake Armstrong tacked on two points each.
The Cardinals (3-15) host McGraw (13-6) from Section III this evening.
IN PHOTO 1: NV's Caden Bennett. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.
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