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STAC BOYS BASKETBALL: SETON CLINCHES CENTRAL AS OWEGO GOES COLD (2024-02-09)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report OWEGO — Owego did a nice job of climbing back into Friday night’s STAC Central clash with Seton Catholic after falling behind by a dozen points, but went stone cold down the stretch as the Saints clinched the division title with a 52-38 victory.

Allan Eagles and Brayden Rumpel scored early in the third quarter to give the Saints their largest lead of the evening, 35-23, but Owego responded with a Riley Loomis field goal and a Joseph Palladino 3-pointer in the next 26 seconds, closing the gap to 35-28.

Behind, 37-28, Palladino wrapped a pair of baskets around buckets by Ben Rollison and Jack Buchsbaum to trim the margin to 41-36 and Rumpel would make just one of four free throws in the final minute of the period.

Loomis notched the first bucket of the fourth quarter and it looked like the rally was on, but that’s when the River Hawks went cold.

Eagles scored on a fast break and with a trey, and Rumpel and Reece Goodman tallied three and two points, respectively as the Saints closed out the game with a 10-point surge.

Owego coach Chris Evans was pleased with the River Hawks’ defensive effort.

“I thought defensively, a couple breakdowns, but I thought they played so hard defensively,” he said. “We held them to 52 points. I think that's a team that scores in the mid-60s or 70, so I was really pleased with our effort defensively. The kids played hard.

“They played their guts out, but at the other end; there was one time we were down four and we got three good looks in the paint in a row and none of them went in. And then we had an open three from the right side and it doesn’t go in, and then they extended that lead. I think they got up 10 and we just couldn't make shots.

“I told them, guys your execution was great. We talked about it at the beginning of the year. If we’re not going to make some threes and we didn't finish inside very well in the first half. It's going to catch up with us.

Needing a win to force a three-way tie for the Central lead (Waverly being the other team), the River Hawks watched Brian Dempsey drain back-to-back 3-pointers during a 9-0 run in the game’s early minutes.

Trailing, 9-2, Loomis scored consecutive baskets to make it 9-6, but a short 5-point spurt put Seton ahead, 14-6.

The River Hawks battled back with another Loomis bucket, and a Rollison-to-Palladino fast break off a turnover. Loomis blocked a shot, then put back a miss and Owego found itself down only 14-12 with 1:42 left in the opening period.

Unfortunately for the River Hawks, Drew Erickson converted a 3-point play and the Saints followed with three more free throws to make it 2-13 heading into the second quarter.

Down, 22-13, Zach Bensley scored inside and Rollison hit a turnaround jumper in the paint to make it 22-17, but Seton offset another Bensley bucket and two Loomis field goals with nine points to make it 31-23 at the break.

The River Hawks were victims of a heavy whistle as well — 24 fouls to Seton’s eight. The Saints attempted 29 free throws, making 15. Owego went 3-for-6 at the line.

“We put them on the line again way too much,” Evans said. “The free throw discrepancy with that team is just crazy, so I don’t know what to say about that. I think we do foul too much, but I also think that we also get fouled a lot going to the basket. It just doesn't seem to even out.”

On Wednesday, Waverly went 24-for-36 at the charity stripe against Owego, which was 8-for-13.

Against Seton, Evans wasn’t really surprised by the number of fouls his team committed.

“They have multiple guards who handle the ball and get in the paint and don't lose the ball. We don't have as many guards who can do that. It's a skill level thing. They do it very, very well.

“Having said that, I thought there were a number of times when we got to the basket, whether it was an offensive rebound or Riley making a move on somebody. I thought we went really strong, Zach Bensley is one, and we didn't get the call. It happens, but it seems like it happens to us a lot.”

Loomis would lead all scorers with 16 points and Palladino put in another 11. Bensley and Rollison had four points each, Buchsbaum had two and Kam Wicklund tacked on a free throw.

Eagles paced Seton with 15 points and Rumpel finished with 14. Six other saints contributed to the scoring as they improved 16-2 and Owego slipped to 13-5.

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IN PHOTO 1: Owego’s Joseph Palladino. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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