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Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly used an active 2-3 zone defense to slow Owego’s perimeter shooting, and kept its Central Division title hopes alive with a 67-41 win here Wednesday night in STAC boys basketball action.

The Wolverines, now 14-3 overall and ranked 11th in Class B in New York State, improve to 9-2 in divisional play, while Owego (13-4 and ranked 23rd in Class A) falls to 9-2.

Owego hosts Seton Catholic, which leads the division at 10-1, Friday night, while Waverly travels to Chenango Valley. If Owego and Waverly win, there will be a three-way tie.

“We played a great game tonight,” said Waverly coach Lou Judson. “Our effort was outstanding.

“We played very poorly (at Owego) three weeks ago … we’re a totally different basketball team than we were three weeks ago,” noted Judson. “Individually, we playing better, and collectively we’re playing better.

“We have a team full of tremendous athletes who are coming off a state championship in football, and they are finally becoming basketball players,” added Judson. “I’ve been waiting for this … things are finally starting to gel for this team.”

It’s the second straight win for the Wolverines against a state-ranked opponent, and a switch in defenses — from man-to-man to 2-3 zone — early in its 61-47 win over Lansing, ranked 9th in Class B, Monday night was a key in both victories.

“I’m not a zone coach by any means, but this is kind of who we are right now,” said Judson. “We wanted to really concentrate on some of their shooters, like we did against Lansing.

“I think it confused them a little bit,” noted Judson. “We did the same thing against Lansing, we have been really effective in this zone.”

In the opening moments of the game, 6-5 junior Xavier Watson received a feed in the low blocks, but dumped it back out to senior Joey Tomasso, who knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Wolverines a 3-0 lead.

Watson finished the game with four assists, but three came in the first quarter, helping the Wolverines to a 22-8 lead after the first eight minutes.

“Xavier (Watson) is one of the best passers on the team,” said Judson. “For being 6-5 and athletic, and catching the ball five feet from the basket, he’s a willing passer.

“And, he demands so much attention when he catches the basketball, when he’s willing to (pass the ball), it opens up everything around him,” noted Judson.

“He sees the floor extremely well for a forward,” added Judson.

After a bucket by Owego’s Zack Bensley, Waverly sophomore Hogan Shaw scored a lay-up in transition, and Watson drained a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Wolverines an 8-2 with 5:20 remaining in the first quarter.

Owego’s Talon Schumacher hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 8-5, but Tomasso hit a pair of free throws with 4:18 remaining in the opening stanza to trigger a 12-0 run.

After a pair of free throws by Shaw, Watson set up Tomasso and senior Jake Benjamin for buckets on consecutive trips down the floor to make it 16-5 with 2:43 remaining in the first quarter.

Benjamin kept it rolling with a putback on the offensive boards, and junior Kolsen Keathley capped the run with a pair of free throws to make it 20-5 with 2:14 remaining in the first quarter.

After a 3-pointer by Ben Rollison stopped the Waverly run, Shaw made two more free throws — Waverly was 8-for-8 from the line in the opening eight minutes — to make it 22-8 with 1:24 remaining in the first quarter.

Owego opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run to close the gap to 22-15 with 4:56 remaining in the first half, but VanHouten slowed the River Hawks’ momentum with a putback on the offensive glass to make it 24-15.

With 2:25 left in the half, Rollison canned a 3-pointer to pull Owego within five points, at 26-21, but that’s as close as the River Hawks would get the rest of the game.

Senior Ethan Perry’s 15-foot baseline jumper triggered a 7-0 spurt to end the first half that VanHouten, off a feed from Shaw, capped with a bucket with 3 seconds remaining to give the Wolverines a 33-21 lead at the half.

The Wolverines opened the second half with an 11-0 run to take a 44-21 lead.

Shaw started the run with a 3-pointer from the corner, and senior Jay Pipher followed with a runner in the lane to make it 38-21 just 60 seconds into the second half.

Four free throws by Tomasso, wrapped around a lay-up in transition by VanHouten gave Waverly a 44-21 lead with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter.

VanHouten’s lay-up came with 5:06 left in the quarter, and Waverly wouldn’t make another field goal until the opening moments of the fourth quarter, but made 10 of 16 free-throw attempts in the final 4:11 of the stanza to take a 53-29 lead into the final eight minutes.

In all, Waverly made 13 of 20 free throw shots in the third quarter alone, and 24 of 36 in the game.

“(Owego) was physical with our guards,” said Judson.

“They got down quite a bit … I think the way we were playing, and how well we were playing, really frustrated them, and dictated what happened in the third quarter, and allowed us to get to the free-throw line,” added Judson.

VanHouten, off a feed from Watson, scored in the low blocks, and Shaw knocked down a 3-pointer to give Waverly its biggest lead of the game, at 58-29, with 7:01 left in the contest.

Owego closed the gap to 58-37 with 3:21 left in the game, but a 3-pointer by Tomasso, and a bucket off a nice spin move by Benjamin pushed the lead back to 63-37 with 2:15 remaining.

Tomasso led Waverly with 19 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, seven rebounds, and four steals, while Shaw had 12 points, including two 3-pointers, and two assists, and Benjamin had nine points, and six rebounds.

VanHouten had eight points, and five boards in the win, while Pipher added six points, four assists, and two steals, Watson chipped in with four points, eight rebounds, and one blocked shot, Keathley hauled down a team-high nine rebounds, and senior Jon Searles grabbed four boards.

Schumacher led Owego with 12 points, while Rollison added seven points.


IN PHOTO 1: Waverly’s Hogan Shaw. … PHOTOS BY MATT PATTON.

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