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HS BASKETBALL: U-E RALLIES PAST OWEGO IN OT TO CAPTURE SIBLEY CHAMPIONSHIP (2023-12-03)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO — Owego grabbed the early advantage in the championship game of the 3rd annual Charlie Sibley Memorial Basketball Tournament Sunday, but for a second straight day Union-Endicott was able to rally for an overtime victory.

U-E, which rallied from 14 down to knock off Elmira in double OT Saturday, went 7-for-8 at the free throw line in OT to turn back the scrappy River Hawks, 58-53.

“It was a long weekend,” U-E coach Jordan Buck said. “We played extra minutes this weekend, but I give credit first off to both Elmira and Owego. They both played absolutely phenomenal.

“Our kids, it took a little while, but they figured towards the end that it was time to turn it on a little bit more. AThey executed things a little bit, the way we were trying to do. The way they finished, I couldn't be more proud, but there’s definitely still some things we’ve got to work on.”

Trailing, 47-42, the Tigers hit a 3-pointer and a conventional field to tie the game with 1:50 remaining in regulation.

Owego’s Riley Loomis hit a pair of free throws with 1:04 to go, but U-E’s Davian King followed suit with 56 ticks on the clock and, with the score knotted at 49, the teams swapped turnovers.

In the final 11.2 seconds, the Tigers’ Cooper Hughes drew a charge against Loomis, but U-E’s Chris Zielewicz stepped on the end line trying to retrieve a pass. Loomis lost the handle on the ball with two seconds to go, sending the game into the extra session.

U-E got the ball on the tip-off, and fed King who unsuccessfully attempted a dunk.

With three minutes on the clock, Zielewicz nailed two free throws and King did likewise 45 seconds later, giving the Tigers a 53-49 lead.

Owego came back with a Loomis jumper, and one free throw apiece by Joseph Palladino and Loomis to tie the game one last time.

With 51 seconds to go, Hughes nailed a basket from the baseline, then Andrew Williams tacked on a free throw with 11.4 seconds left, and Zielewicz hit two more at the charity stripe with seven seconds remaining.

“It's a chess match, teams kind of figuring out what you're doing and you're figuring out what they're doing, and what's the next play call,” Owego coach Chris Evans said. “It's fun. It's a lot of fun, and it's fun to work with kids who want to be coached and who want to learn.”

King scored the game’s initial basket, then the River Hawks went on an 11-2 run with Loomis scoring seven points and Zach Bensley adding four.

Credit U-E’s defense with not letting Owego pull away, but you can’t shake your head at the Rivers Hawks’ effort and determination either.

“I think that it's a shot maker's game and when shots go in points go on the scoreboard, and sometimes they don't go in,” Evans said. “I know we scored 19 points in that first quarter last night, and I think 25 or 26 the rest of the way, which was pretty disheartening, but, you know, the other team's playing defense too. They're changing things up and I mean, today we were playing against a team that was much bigger and more athletic and, obviously, we more than held our own.”

Free throws by Gennarelli, and a steal and layup by King narrowed the gap to 11-8 heading into the second period.

King tied the game at 16 with a three-ball, but Owego’s Ben Rollison banged out a trey, Loomis followed with a field goal and Bensley added a basket to offset a Dom Prince-Lasicki trey to give the host 23-19 halftime lead.

Bensley wrapped a pair of baskets around a Loomis bucket while Gennarelli and King combined to make five foul shots, making it 29-24 midway through the third quarter.

King scored the next six points and Prince-Lasicki added a free throw with 1:57 on the clock, giving U-E a 31-29 edge and its first lead since the early moments of the game.

Loomis tied the score twice in the final minute of the period, but four points, including a buzzer beater, kept the Tigers ahead, 35-33 heading into the final frame.

A pair of 3-pointers from Palladino and a free throw by Talan Shumacher pushed the River Hawks back in front, 40-38, with 5:18 to go in regulation.

Gennarelli tied the game at 5:04, but a try by Loomis, and a basket and two free throws from Palladino made it 47-42.

A pair of come-from-behind victories is a nice start to the season.

“They definitely have a lot of adversity,” Buck said. “A lot of these kids are new to the varsity team this year, but they are winners. They've won a lot in their lives, so to come here and continue to try and win and fight back, it just shows a lot about who they are as players.”

King, the tournament MVP, finished with 24 points. Gennarelli, who was named to the all-tournament team, connected for 15. The duo went a combined 15-for-17 at the free throw line.

U-E scored 21 points at the charity stripe, missing just four attempts.

Evans was pleased with his team’s performance, but starting the season at 2-0 would have been even better.

“You get to be my age and there aren't any moral victories, butI love this team, absolutely love this team,” he said. “Every year, I think that I can't get a team to play harder and they surprise me. They played so hard.

“They haven't overachieved yet. They certainly achieved, but we'll get to that point where they overachieve. We're going to be OK. I'm so pleased tonight. I think they just played so hard and defensively to hold them to, in an overtime game, to hold that team to 58 points ... so I just think they are tremendously hard working kids.”

Loomis, also an all tournament team pick, made seven of his eight free throw attempts and scored a game-high 26 points. Palladino and Bensley added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Rollison added three, Kam Wicklund two and Talan Schumacher one.

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IN PHOTO 1: Owego's Kam Wicklund. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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