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SECTION IV BOYS BASKETBALL: OWEGO UPENDS TOP-SEEDED FORKS FOR CLASS B TITLE (2023-03-05)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
BINGHAMTON — The Owego boys basketball team proved that its previous game against Chenango Forks, a 22-point loss in early February, was not the real deal.

Behind a stellar offensive shooting performance from John Bangel, and dominance on the boards by the 6-foot-7 senior and his twin brother, Joe, and a solid defensive effort from the rest of the team, the Indians knocked off the top-seeded Blue Devils, 52-33, in the Section IV Class B championship game at Visions Veterans Memorial Arena here Sunday.

“It feels fantastic,” Owego coach Chris Evans said. “I'm still thinking about the defensive effort. Thirty-three points we gave up, which was tremendous. I was hoping that we would hold them in the 40s somewhere.

Evans credits the Indians’ defensive prowess to the fact that the players trust each other.

“The last three weeks is really when it kicked in,” he said. “The offense started to kick in about two, 2 ½ weeks ago.

“The defense was good early in the year,” he added. “Later on in the year, I think we got a little lax, but the last three weeks or so, we started to trust each other a little bit more.

John and Joe Bangel played key roles in holding the Blue Devils to their lowest point total of the season.

“John and Joe, I thought the twins, in terms of being in the back line, and taking care of anybody who got past our guards, were just tremendous,” Evans said. “The whole idea is to go straight up and not foul. I think they did a great job of that.

Leading 21-17 at the break, Owego created some space in the second half as John Bangel opened the third period with a basket, a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to push the Indians’ advantage to 28-17.

Not long after, he would sandwich two field goals between baskets by Drew Tavelli and Joe Bangel to give Owego a 36-22 cushion.

The Indians would hold a 12-point advantage heading into the final frame, but Trevor Warpus and Grady Stark closed the gap to 38-30 with five minutes remaining in the game.

The final five minutes was almost exclusively a John Bangel scoring show. He put up a pair of baskets then, following a trey by Forks’ Lucas Sickles, he sank a pair of free throws.

After a Tavelli bucket, Bangel brought the crowd to a roar with a pair of dunks to end the game.

Defensive changes have made the Indians stronger against some good shooting teams like Forks.

“Historically, because of our personnel, we've been more of a zone team,” Evans said. “In the past three or four years we were much more man-to-man. We played exclusively man-to-man. We tried to switch everything this year because John and Joe bought into the whole idea of switching to the perimeter, which is asking a lot of them to switch on to a little 5-11 guard sometimes, but because we were doing it so well, that's what we were doing.

“This game was a little different. We started out showing a little bit of zone early on, then we went man-to-man pretty much for 90 percent of the game, but there were times where we mixed in a little of our zone just to kind of throw them off a little bit. I don’t know if it worked or not. Sometimes you get in here and it's just who makes more shots. It's a shooter’s game, whoever makes more shots at the end of the game.

“They’re a great team. All the credit for them. They're a fantastic team.”

John Bangel pumped out 29 points on the day and Joe Bangel added 10. Tavelli chipped in with nine points and Riley Loomis added four.

Owego (15-6) faces Section III champ Westhill (21-3) Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena.

The Indians played in the state tournament in 2019, falling to Lowville.

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PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.
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