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Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO — Owego built a double-digit advantage early in the Section IV Class B Boys Basketball playoffs here Tuesday evening and rolled to a 68-47 semifinal victory over Waverly.

The Indians, who thrive on their defensive play more than offense, have scored more than 68 points just twice this season — in wins over teams that finished their seasons with a combined 13-27 mark. For Waverly, it was the lowest point output for one of the highest-scoring teams in Section IV.

“I think part of that probably is me being sick and them not hearing me from the bench, so they're just doing their own thing, which gives them a lot more confidence,” said Owego coach Chris Evans. “We shot the ball. I think our offense is kind of kicking in at the right time right now and they're very confident and they moved the ball. I thought the execution was absolutely fantastic. But like coach said, we haven't really shot the ball that well. Maybe at Seton we did, but it's been kind of up and down. I just think the confidence is kicking in at the right time.”

“We got down big early and never really truly recovered,” Waverly coach Lou Judson said. “Going into this game we came up with a good defensive game plan and I would've never thought that, I think it was No. 4, that was hitting those threes early on. That's the kind of the shot that we wanted to give up.

“They weren't hurting us around the rim. They were hurting us from the 3-point line and it wasn't their shooters, No. 2 and No. 11, or No. 15 off the bench, so the guys did exactly what we wanted to early on, and when he started making those shots and he was kind of contagious for the rest of the team, it kind of took a lot of wind out of our sails early on and we looked kind of awe-struck from that point on.”

Owego racked up nine treys on the evening, six in the first half, while Waverly managed just two for the entire game.

The Indians rode strong shooting from 6-foot-6 senior John Bangel to a 12-2 advantage halfway through the opening period as he canned a pair of 3-pointers.

Owego would build a 24-10 lead heading into the second quarter as Bangel finished the period with 13 points.

Point guard Drew Tavelli contributed five points to the early surge contributing a trey and a slick baseline reverse layup. He also turned a Ryan Pryor steal into an outlet pass to Joe Palladino for a fast-breaking basket to give the hosts their first 14-point lead of the quarter.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines struggled to establish a rhythm and weren’t able to score successive buckets until the final two minutes of the half.

“I thought defensively, and obviously we had to take advantage of our size and our strength on the boards,” Evans said. “We had to take advantage of those things, so I think we did. I was just very, very pleased.”

Joe Bangel drained a 3-ball, then added a field goal to push the Owego lead to 29-14 just over two minutes into the second period.

Back-to-back threes from Riley Loomis and Ben Rollison preceded a pair of free throws from Palladino, which gave the Indians a 37-16 cushion with less than three minutes remaining in the half.

Another Loomis trey, followed by buckets from Tavelli and Loomis boosted the Owego advantage to 44-24 at the half.

Joey Tomasso accounted for 13 of Waverly’s first-half points and the Wolverines scored one-third of their points at the line against an aggressive Indians defense.

“Joey still scored 25,” Evans said. “He gets to places. He's so hard to stop.”

John Bangel, Tavelli and Loomis connected for consecutive baskets to start the second half off and create the Indians’ biggest margin of the game at 50-24.

Tomasso would halt the run and give Waverly a spark of hope with a bucket, conventional 3-point play and a steal and layup, cutting the gap to 50-31.

Palladino and Joe Bangel would wrap baskets around a Tavelli free throw to make it 55-31.

The Wolverines would counter with a Jake VanHouten bucket on an alley-oop pass, a Tomasso trey and a Jacob Benjamin bucket, trimming the deficit to 55-40.

“The kids battled late in the game, pulled it within 14 or 15, but never really could truly get over the hump,” Judson said. “I would have to say that that's the best that Owego played this year, or second best. I don't know if they shot the ball better this season. It wasn't things that we were giving up. We were contesting shots early on, so give all the credit in the world.

“Sometimes in high school sports, you do everything you can to prepare your team and go out there and they execute it and you still come up short, and give a lot of credit to Owego. They're a good basketball team and sometimes you just don't match up well with other teams and that's a team that we just don't match up well with.”

“There was one really important possession toward the end of the third quarter when Palladino got a runout,” Evans said. “He had a chance at 3-point play. I think he missed the free throw, but that kind of turned the tide just a little bit because they were making a little bit of a run there.”

That play came with less than 15 seconds to go in the period and Palladino’s basket made it 57-40 heading into the final frame.

“The bench. The bench is so important to us and they come off, because they're confident as well,” Evans said. “The bench is very, very confident, and the whole team is confident in them, which is really important.”

John Bangel wrapped a pair of baskets around a Rollison trey early in the fourth, giving the Indians a 64-40 advantage with 5 ½ minutes to go.

“They switched defenses so many different times. We were ready. I thought we were prepared for, alright, as soon as they switch to this defense, then we're going to run this quick hitter or run that quick hitter. I thought they adjusted on the fly very, very well.”

Waverly’s Hogan Shaw canned a 3-pointer, but John Bangel hit a pair of free throws and Tavelli added a bucket, giving the Indians a 68-43 cushion.

Benjamin and VanHouten scored the game’s final points.

“From halftime on, we played pretty even with them,” Judson said. “I think we were down 19 or 20 at half and we ended up losing by 20, so we played better in the second half, but we just never could recover. We just didn't have the size and athleticism to match them inside and when we had opportunities to make an extra run, we just didn't make the extra shot when we needed to, but it's been an outstanding season.

“It's been a great run. It really has,” Judson said. “It had to come to an end at some point. I just wish we could have been able to play a little bit better tonight.”

John Bangel led Owego (14-6) with 21 points, including a trio of threes. Loomis and Tavelli pumped out a dozen points apiece. Loomis had two treys and Tavelli added one. Ben Rollison added two 3-pointers for his six points, and Joe Bangel had one trey and nine points. Palladino scored eight points.

Tomasso, despite facing some tough defensive pressure, managed to weave around and through the Indians several times to finish with a game-high 25 points. He also went 6-for-8 at the stripe, dished out four assists and snagged a pair of steals.

Shaw contributed five points; VanHouten chipped in with four points, two blocks and four rebounds; Jay Pipher added four points, three assists and three steals; Benjamin had four points; Nate Delill recorded two points and six rebounds; and Jon Searles tacked on one point.

Waverly closes out its season with a 19-3 record.

Owego will face the winner of Thursday’s Chenango Forks-Chenango Valley winner in Sunday’s championship game at Visions Veterans Memorial Arena at 2 p.m.


IN PHOTO 1: Owego’s Joe Palladino drives between Waverly’s Jay Pipher (23) and Hogan Shaw. ... PHOTOS 1-18 BY DAVID ALLIGER — TRAVELING PORTRAITS. ... PHOTOS 19-22 BY TIM TAYLOR.

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