By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
ENDICOTT — Union-Endicott closed the first half with a 13-2 run to take a 13-point halftime lead, and held off Waverly in the second half for a 66-55 season-opening non-league boys basketball win here Tuesday night.
Waverly coach Lou Judson said rebounding and turnovers proved costly for the Wolverines.
“They hurt us on the boards in the first half, and that was an area of concern for us. When we go small, and Scotty (Woodring) doesn’t get (the rebound), our guards go down there and scrape, but they’re not 6-4 and getting the basketball.
“Defensive rebounding and live-ball turnovers hurt us,” said Judson. “Every time we would make a run, and get it within seven or eight points, it seemed like we’d turn it over and they’d score four or six points in a row. We could never get the momentum on our side long enough.”
Six-foot, eight-inch senior Scott Woodring and senior guard Jalen McCarty scored five points apiece for the Wolverines in the first quarter, but U-E’s 6-4 center Mekhi Belcher knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Tigers a 12-10 lead after the first eight minutes.
Adrese Bradford drained a pair of 3-pointers and scored 12 points in the second quarter, including eight points in U-E’s 12-2 run to end the half, but it was a half-court buzzer-beater by Antwane Briggs Jr. that gave the Tigers a 35-22 lead at the intermission.
Eighth-grade point guard Joey Tomasso knocked down a 3-pointer — his first varsity bucket — with 5:15 left in the third quarter to trim the deficit to 37-29.
Later in the quarter, junior Aidan Westbrook scored three buckets in transition in 40 seconds to pull Waverly with five points, at 41-36 with 2:08 remaining.
Westbrook scored two more buckets on the break to trim the U-E lead to 43-40 with 59 seconds remaining, but Nick Van Fossen answered with a baseline drive, then hit a runner off the glass at the buzzer to make it 47-40 heading into the final eight minutes.
Judson took note of U-E’s buzzer-beaters in the first three quarters.
“They hit 3-pointers at the end of the first and second quarters, and the lay-up at the end of the third quarter — that’s eight points.
“We were down 45-40, and the momentum was coming back to our side,” said Judson. “It was deflating to see them score at the end of the quarters.”
The Tigers opened the fourth quarter with a 9-3 spurt, capped by a steal and lay-up by Van Fossen with 6:30 remaining in the game, to take a 56-43 lead. Waverly would close the gap to eight points on a couple of occasions late in the game, but would get no closer.
Woodring, who missed the final 13 games of last season due a knee injury, led Waverly with 25 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocked shots, while Westbrook scored 10 points, and Tomasso had six points, two assists, and one blocked shot.
McCarty added five points and five rebounds for the Wolverines, while junior Ryan Lambert had five points, two steals, and two assists, and sophomore Caden Hollywood chipped in with three rebounds and three assists.
Judson said he saw a lot of positives from his team.
“We can build upon this. There were some things from this game I really liked.
“I liked our half-court defense,” said Judson. “We gave up 35 points in the first half, but it wasn’t our defense, it was our live-ball turnovers. They were scoring in transition, so I was pleased with our half-court defense.
“I was pleased with certain personnel on the floor tonight,” noted Judson. “Aidan (Westbrook) came off the bench tonight, and played very well in the open court. I thought Joey (Tomasso), for his first varsity basketball game, was very composed. He made some nice plays late in the game.
“Overall, collectively, we did not play well long enough in spurts to get a win, but I think we can learn a lot from this ball game,” continued Judson. “It was a measuring stick for us; that’s why I put this game on our schedule.
“For our first game, and having a lack of preparation with losing a week, I do like where we’re at,” Judson added. “I think we could have played better tonight, but overall I’m pleased going into league play. We can build upon this.”
Waverly opens IAC play Friday night at Large School rival Newark Valley.
IN PHOTO: Waverly’s Scott Woodring. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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