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STAC GIRLS BASKETBALL: LATE OWEGO RALLY COMES UP SHORT IN LOSS TO WAVERLY (2024-02-06)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO — A late-game rally came up short as Owego fell to Waverly, 36-35, in STAC Central girls basketball action Tuesday evening.

An 8-point run gave the visiting Wolverines a 36-28 advantage with 1:35 remaining, but the River Hawks refused to fold, battling back to take the game down to the buzzer.

“All credit to them,” Owego coach Luke McEvoy said. “I think we got ourselves early in the game with too many missed opportunities in the beginning. Last second shot comes down to what did we do for the 31-plus minutes before that?

“First quarter, too many turnovers, too many unforced turnovers throughout the game was something we talked about we’ve got to get better at, but again, you can't do that against a good team like Waverly, and they hit a couple big shots after nobody really could make anything most of the night tonight. We had some opportunities and we let them go.”

Ava Brown snapped a 4 1/2-minute scoring drought with a basket at 1:17, then Waverly turned the ball over 15 seconds later and Madison McEvoy darined a 3-pointer with 37.3 seconds on the clock. Trailing, 36-33, Owego forced another turnover with 13 seconds to go and coach McEvoy immediately signaled for a timeout.

The River Hawks would get the ball into the hands of their 3-point record holder, Madison McEvoy, but Waverly defended well against the junior guard, who had to dish off in the final seconds to Brown for a layup at the buzzer — and the Wolverines steered clear of any foul trouble on the play to preserve the victory.

“You could tell their focus definitely there at the end, but throughout the entire game, and we talked about that in the timeout of kind of what we wanted to do,” coach McEvoy said. “Again, looking back at it right now, not sure if we got to where we needed to, (I’ll) look back at the film.

“I was hoping some other people would present themselves with an opportunity or go for that quick two early. It wasn't a quick two, it was a two at the buzzer, which doesn't do any good there. If we could've got that two right away, I would've taken it, but otherwise, we should've been looking for the three from somebody else knowing that they would've really pressured her.”

“We were well aware of her,” Kelley said of Madison McEvoy. “I think defensively we did a real nice job. Everybody was aware of her when she was in their area and defended her nicely.”

The Wolverines snapped a 5-game losing streak, which started with a loss to Owego in mid-January.

“They were able to pull it out,” Waverly coach Bob Kelley said. “It feels like it's been a while and they battled, they stuck with it. We made some plays when we had to make them and made some free throws also that were kind of key. I’m pretty proud of them because it's been a few games since this happened and it feels good.”

The Wolverines snapped a 28-28 tie with 5:54 to play on a Ryleigh Judson trey, which was followed by a Paige Robinson three. Judson then followed up with a pair of free throws to give Waverly its late 8-point cushion.

“They were very important,” Kelley said of the threes. “Paige, I think she hit the last one. It was good to see it go in. Those shots haven't been going for us and it's been nice to see it go in. And she had the confidence to take it, being a senior. Pretty proud of her knocking that down.”

In a game highlighted by defense, the offenses struggled with Owego managing the game’s only point in the first 4:15.

Basket by Robinson and Ashlen Croft, and a trey from Judson, countered two buckets by the River Hawks’ Cassie Doane and a McEvoy free throw in the first quarter.

The second period was a scoreless battle until Brown tied the game at 3:58. The lead changed hands four times, the last coming when McEvoy sank another free throw with 39 seconds left in the half to break an 11-11 tie.

Taylor Dalton’s field goal made it 14-11 at the break. Brown had four points in the period while a three-ball by Brilynn Belles highlighted the Waverly effort.

Maci Wheeler nailed a trey in the first 15 seconds of the third quarter, Croft added a basket and Judson knocked down a pair of free throws as the Wolverine surged back in front at the midway point of the third quarter.

McEvoy scored at 3:55 and Crofthit a free throw at 2:44, making it 19-16. Brown scored at 2:01 and McEvoy dropped in a pair of foul shots, giving Owego a 20-19 edge.

Wheeler put Waverly back in front, 22-19, on a 3-pointer, but Doane countered with a pair of free throws to tie the game at 22 as it dipped into the final minute of the period.

“No. 14 there gives us some problems,” Kelley added of Doane. “The other girls on their team were stepping up and hitting that 15-foot shot, which is what we do and that's kind of what we wanted them to do; not make them, but we wanted them to shoot it. They were making them.

“I thought we did a real nice job on No. 22 (McEvoy) and did a decent job on the boards as well.”

Meanwhile, Croft converted the free throw on a 3-point play, but Stella Palladino scored in the final seconds to make it a 25-24 game heading into the fourth quarter.

Judson and Lexi Herceg traded baskets early in the fourth quarter, then Robinson added a free throw and Brown responded with a field goal to make it a 28-28 deadlock with 5:42 remaining.

Waverly improved to 9-6 with the win. Judson connected for three threes and went 4-for-4 at the free throw line to lead all scorers with 15 points. Croft had eight points, Robinson six, Wheeler four and Belles three.

Brown paced Owego, which slipped to 10-7, with a dozen points. McEvoy and Doane contributed nine and eight, respectively, and Herceg, Palladino and Taylor Dalton chipped in with one basket apiece.

The River Hawks visit Seton Catholic (6-9) Thursday.

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IN PHOTO: Owego’s Lexi Herceg. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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