UNIFIED BASKETBALL: OWEGO HOT FROM LONG RANGE IN LOSS TO ELMIRA (2021-06-03)
BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO — NBA superstar Steph Curry's 3-point percentage hovers around 43 1/2 percent. That's pretty impressive, but even his jaw might have dropped just a little had he witnessed the Owego Unified basketball team knocking down treys here Thursday.
The Indians went 6-for-11 from downtown in a 40-28 loss to Elmira in their final game of the season. Owego went nearly 20 minutes before connecting on its first conventional field goal of the contest, but certainly wasn't shy about canning the long-range shots.
"We talked about trying to get the ball inside and make some close shots, but it didn't turn out that way," Owego coach Perry Silvestri said. "Sometimes, the way you plan things isn't the way the game goes and I'm OK with that. As long as they had fun, they're still talking about."
"That's what it's about for me. We fell a little short, but in the end of it, we won. I got everything out of these kids that we could get and they did the best they could, and that's just the way it is. I'm really proud of them."
Of course, the Express had a couple of big men in Dominic Klohout and Javontae Nichols on the court to defend against Owego in the paint.
All that talking the Owego players were doing after the game might be attributed to the fact that two of the Indians' long-range baskets were crowd-thrilling buzzer beaters which brought an exuberant student section — missing during the boys and girls seasons due to COVID-19 — to their feet.
Jay Barrows launched the first time tester from the top if the key with six-tenths of a second remaining in the first quarter to cut the Elmira lead to 8-6.
Wyatt Gunther had already given Owego its first trey of the day, putting the team on the board with 4:22 remaining in the first quarter to end Elmira's 6-point run to start the game.
The next long-range clock stopper came off the fingertips of Dan Liberty and went through the rim with no time left to end the half.
Unfortunately for the Indians, the Express put up 12 straight points — four each by Klohout and Nichols — to build a 20-6 advantage.
Elmira led, 20-9, at halftime.
Following acknowledgement of the Owego cheerleading squad and a skills display by a couple of Elmira player, the Express opened the second half with an impressive reverse layup by Jaden Clune as they built a 26-9 cushion.
Caden Cantone got in on Owego's long-range exhibition with a trey at 4:19 — the home team's fourth 3-pointer of the game.
With Elmira up, 30-12, Keener snapped the string of threes, hitting a conventional field goal at 3:11 of the third period. He would another two-point field goal late in the period to cut Elmira's lead to 35-16 heading into the final frame.
Cantone notched his second trey of the day at 6:06 of the fourth quarter as the Indians attempted to mount a comeback.
Owego scored two of the next three buckets, then Josh Terry put back a rebound of a teammate's missed free throw, then Barrows fired off his second three with 18.5 ticks on the clock for Owego's final points.
It was the final game of the season for the Indians, who would normally close out their campaign with a tournament in Johnson City's twin gyms. The COVID-19 pandemic kind of messed with that deal, but Owego would have most likely been missing a few players due to the fact the prom is Saturday.
"They made lasting friendships," Silvestri said. "The seniors that graduate will come back next year and they'll be here watching and cheering on their team.
Unified sports has never been about wins and losses, and that's what Silvestri, his coaching staff and helpers attempt to impress on the payers.
"The main thing I want for them to understand is the team aspect," Silvestri said. "A lot of them wouldn't have a chance to be on a team, and you see some kids come out of their shell and you see some of our helpers show some different skill sets that they have, such as emotionally, and patience and dealing with a little bit of adversity that they normally don't have to show a lot of. That's what I hope to get out of it and they did."
IN PHOTO 1: Owego's Nate Keener. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.