By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly trailed by 20 late in the first half, but battled back to within seven midway through the fourth quarter before dropping a season-opening 58-46 decision to IAC South Large School rival Newark Valley here Friday night in IAC boys basketball action.
“I think we showed a lot of guts in how we responded,” said Waverly coach Bob Kelly. “We dug ourselves a hole, we accepted it, and came out in the second half and just battled.
“It’s promising. All we can ask is to come out and win the second half, and we did,” he noted. “There’s a lot of upside to what we saw tonight.
“I’m never really happy with a loss, but I think we proved to ourselves that we can play if we want to play,” added Kelly.
For Newark Valley coach Greg Schweiger, now in his fifth year at the helm, it was his first win against the Lady Wolverines in nine tries.
“It’s a good win for game two.
“We’re 2-0, 1-0 in the division, and it’s game two of a 20-game season,” said Schweiger. “Yeah, it’s important to get Waverly at home.
“It’s a win on the road in the division, that’s nice, but we have to keep it in perspective, it’s early in the season,” added Schweiger. “I’m certainly happy for the girls. They showed poise at the end and held on.”
In the first quarter, NV’s Mackenna Nechwedowich pounded the boards and scored 10 points, while Brianna Beebe knocked down a 3-pointer and scored five points, and Taylor Benjamin canned a trey to help the Lady Cardinals to a 22-13 lead.
Junior Sidney Tomasso kept Waverly in the game in the first eight minutes with nine points, including a 5-for-5 effort from the free-throw line.
In the second quarter, Allie Wandell knocked down consecutive 3-pointers, Nechwedowich hit a 3-pointer off the glass and scored five points, and Benjamin connected on another trey as Newark Valley used a 16-5 run to take a 38-18 lead in the final minute of the first half.
Waverly’s only field goal of the second quarter was a 3-pointer off the glass from the top-of-the-key by Paige Lewis until Tomasso registered a steal and breakaway lay-up in the closing seconds to trim the halftime deficit to 38-20.
“We want to play up-tempo, and the number of threes we hit in the first half gave us a cushion,” said Schweiger.
“In the second half, we cooled off, and (Waverly’s) defensive pressure picked up,” he noted. “And, we did what I knew we would have to do, and that’s win a close, grinder half-court type of game — make just enough plays to win, and that’s what we did.”
Kelly switched from a 2-3 zone to his typical full-court pressure in the second half, and it paid dividends.
“Our main defense was pretty solid in the second half when we went to it.
“Something I think was promising was the change in our physicality,” said Kelly. “We became a more physical team in the second half. Instead of being pushed around, we were doing a little bit more of the pushing.
“And, we responded offensively as a result.
“We have to be physical with the size that we are,” noted Kelly. “We have to be confident we can play that way, and keep working at it.
“It’s a learning experience right now with a lot of things,” he added.
Waverly limited Newark Valley to just two field goals in the third quarter, while senior Morgan Adams and freshman Kennedy Westbrook scored four points apiece, and sophomore Olivia Nittinger canned a 3-pointer in a 15-8 run that trimmed the deficit to 46-35 entering the final eight minutes.
The Lady Wolverines cut the deficit to 50-43 with 3:58 remaining in the game on a bucket by Lewis, but couldn’t find the range again for nearly three minutes. They also made just 5 of 10 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
Wandell scored in the paint with 2:28 remaining to give NV a 52-43 lead, and Beebe was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line to secure the win.
Tomasso led Waverly with 19 points, while Lewis scored eight, Adams added six, and Westbrook and Nittinger each chipped in with five.
Nechwedowich led the Lady Cardinals with 18 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, and three blocked shots, while Beebe had 12 points and four rebounds, and Hannah Ferguson had nine points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Waverly (0-1) travels to Notre Dame Monday.
IN PHOTO 1: Waverly’s Kennedy Westbrook. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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