By TIM BIRNEY
Tioga County Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly used a strong third quarter to take control, and avenge a loss from 24 earlier, topping Newark Valley, 61-53, here Thursday night in IAC Large School girls basketball action.
“We could have played better,” said Newark Valley coach Greg Schweiger. “The cold third quarter was the key. (Waverly) has competent shooters, and they had just enough offense to keep us at bay.
“I think it was the energy (in the third quarter). Waverly brought it,” noted Schweiger. “We talked about it at halftime. We’re in a back-to-back game against a good team, we needed to come out and seize the third quarter and take control of the tempo, and that’s kind of where the game slipped away from us.
“We fought valiantly in the fourth quarter and made it interesting, but …,” added Schweiger, whose Lady Cardinals bested Waverly, 75-70, Wednesday night.
“This is a big win,” said Waverly coach Bob Kelly. “I think a lot of people under-estimated us.
“There’s a lot grit on this team,” he added. “We’re not very big, but they have big hearts, and they play hard.”
Newark Valley’s trio of Hannah Ferguson, Brianna Beebe and Mackenna Nechwedowich combined for 41 points in the game, while the Waverly duo of Sidney Tomasso and Kennedy Westbrook had 39 points between.
“These are two teams that are very familiar with each other,” said Schweiger. “We know what they’re going to do, and they know what we’re going to do.
“We’re going to try to take away their best stuff, and they’re going to try to take away our best stuff. It’s up to the other players, and often times that’s who determines the game.
“It comes down to surprises,” added Schweiger. “Last night, I thought Hayley Beebe was our little surprise that they didn’t expect. Certainly, they have a couple girls like that, like Lourden Benjamin —she was solid in both games.
For Waverly Thursday, that was junior Lourden Benjamin, and freshmen Paige Robinson and Peyton Shaw, who combined for 14 points.
“We had some girls step up tonight,” said Kelly. “We’ve had different girls step up all season.”
The first 14 minutes of the game featured a slew of turnovers and missed shots by both teams, the product of two good teams playing hard against each other on consecutive nights, agreed both coached.
“These are two teams that know each other pretty well, and I think like playing each other because they push each other, and get after it,” said Kelly.
Hannah Ferguson scored the first five points of the game, but Waverly answered to make it 5-4 midway through the first quarter.
Brianna Beebe and Ferguson knocked down 3-pointers, and Mackana Gardner scored in the low blocks, sandwiched around a bucket by Benjamin to put the Lady Cardinals up 13-6 with 1:25 remaining in the first quarter.
Waverly closed the gap on a 3-pointer by Westbrook, and a short baseline jumper by Peyton Shaw with 7.7 seconds remaining to cut the NV advantage to 14-11 after the first eight minutes.
A bucket by Taylor Benjamin and a 3-pointer by Brianna Beebe were offset by a long 3-pointer by Tomasso, and a steal and breakaway lay-up Tomasso to leave the game at 19-16 with 5:04 remaining in the first half.
A bucket by Ferguson a minute later gave the Lady Cardinals, who seemed poised to pull away, a 22-16 lead with 3:02 left in the half.
To this point, Waverly had made just 6 of 30 shots from the field, and had 10 turnovers.
“It was kind of a complete turn-around from (Wednesday) night when they shot the ball super-well,” said Schweiger. “Tonight, they were much colder, but we weren’t able to separate like we could have and should have — to take a little more comfortable lead.”
Gabby Picco and Tomasso knocked down 3-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor for the Lady Wolverines to tie the game at 22-22 with 2:18 remaining in the half.
Brianna Beebe answered with a 3-pointer, and a runner in the lane to give NV a 27-22 lead with 1:34 left in the half, but once again Waverly closed the quarter strong with two Tomasso buckets in the final 45 seconds to trim the deficit to 27-26 at the intermission.
Tomasso gave the Lady Wolverines their first lead of the game with a 3-pointer on their first possession of the second half, but a 3-pointer by Hayley Beebe and a Nechwedowich bucket off an in-bounds play capped a quick 6-0 spurt that put the Lady Cardinals ahead 33-29 with 5:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Tomasso’s putback on the offensive boards with 5:15 remaining triggered a 9-0 Waverly run that was capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Picco and Westbrook to put the Lady Wolverines ahead 38-33 midway through the stanza.
A bucket by Brianna Beebe and a 3-pointer by Ferguson in the next minute tied the game at 38-38 with 3:04 left in the third quarter.
After the teams traded buckets, freshman Paige Robinson drained a 3-pointer with 1:08 remaining in the third quarter to trigger an 8-0 run to close out the quarter and gave Waverly a 48-40 lead.
Robinson added a pair of free throws, and Westbrook converted a conventional three-point play to finish off the run.
Picco stretched the lead to 49-40 with a free throw in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, but a 3-pointer by Ferguson made it 49-43 with 6:28 left in the game.
Buckets by Benjamin and Tomasso gave the Wolverines their biggest lead of the game, at 53-43 with 4:58 left in the game, but the Lady Cardinals used a 7-1 spurt to trim the deficit to 54-50 with 2:12 left in the game.
Taylor Benjamin started the run with a 3-pointer and Nechwedovich scored the final four points on a pair of buckets, sandwiched around a free throw by Shaw.
After the teams exchanged possessions, Lourden Benjamin grabbed an offensive rebounds and found Westbrook open for a jumper that pushed the lead to 56-50 with 1:19 left in the game.
Newark Valley missed 3-point attempts on its next two possessions, and Westbrook made 3 of 4 free throws to make it 59-50 with 26.1 seconds remaining.
Ferguson drained a long 3-pointer with 22 ticks remaining, but there next attempt was off the mark, and Tomasso made 2 of 4 free throws in the final 20 seconds to provide the final margin.
Ferguson led Newark Valley with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, and eight boards, while Brianna Beebe had 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, and four assists, and Nechwedowich added nine points, 11 rebounds, four steals, three assists, and two blocked shots.
Taylor Benjamin added five points for Newark Valley, and Hayley Beebe chipped in with four points and three assists.
Tomasso led Waverly with 25 points, including three 3-pointers, six rebounds, four steals, and four assists, while Westbrook had 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists, and Picco added seven points and five rebounds.
Lourden Benjamin had six points and six boards in the win, and Robinson chipped in with five points.
Schweiger said his team is still searching for its groove.
“We’re still trying to find the chemistry and the rhythm with this weird season.
“It’s a learning experience, and I think that’s what the Covid season is all about,” he said. “I think it’s about the seniors having a chance to show what they can do, and have one last hoorah, and for the young kids to have a chance to compete and build for next year.”
The loss aside, Schweiger thought it was a good night.
“It was a great game,” he said. “The rivalry between these two programs and schools right now is a lot of fun.
“I know my girls aren’t feeling like it’s a lot of fun at the moment, but I appreciate the competition we have with Waverly, and the fact that we can compete with them now at this level,” noted Schweiger. “(Waverly) is the school, the program, and the coach we’ve been chasing for a long time, so when we can have a back-and-forth like that, I’m happy.
“And, I’m just happy we’re having a season at all,” added Schweiger.
Newark Valley, now 2-1, travels to Owego Saturday afternoon, while Waverly travels to Tioga.
IN PHOTO 1: Newark Valley's Brianna Beebe. ... PHOTOS BY DAVID ALLIGER — TRAVELING PHOTOGRAPHY.