Horseheads pressured defensively early and often, speeding past Owego Free Academy 62-41 in a Southern Tier Athletic Conference girls basketball semifinal Wednesday night at Reppert Gymnasium.
The Blue Raiders (15-2) will face Oneonta for the STAC championship at noon Sunday at Binghamton University’s Events Center. Oneonta beat Maine-Endwell, 50-34, on Wednesday night.
Amanda Schiefen, Horseheads’ 6-foot-1 sophomore forward, finished with a game-high 24 points.
Matched up most of the night against Owego’s 6-3 junior forward Rachel Merrill, Schiefen limited the taller player to six points. Three of those came in the final two minutes when the outcome was already decided.
“I just tried to keep her out of the post,” Schiefen said. “We wanted to show them we were here to play. Our intensity and tempo set the pace.”
Blue Raiders coach Andy Scott was more effusive praising Schiefen’s effort.
“She did a great job against Merrill. She was phenomenal in her play at both ends of the court,” he said.
Horseheads started the game with a full-court press, forcing Owego turnovers and creating a fast pace that the Indians couldn’t keep up with.
The Blue Raiders jumped out to a 15-4 lead a little over three minutes into the game, riding an 8-0 run in less than two minutes to build that edge.
Schiefen scored four points during the run and collected 10 points in the first quarter.
Owego (12-5) chipped away at its deficit and got as close as 25-20 midway through the second quarter. But the Blue Raiders outscored the Indians 10-2 over the rest of the period to regain control.
“We basically wanted to pressure full court,” Scott explained.
Horseheads turned up the defensive heat in the third, limiting Owego to two points over the first 6:30 of the period to pull away to a 46-24 lead.
Junior forward Jen Chalk did much of the damage for the Blue Raiders, scoring six of her 12 points in the first two minutes of the third.
Junior guard Ellie Leszyk gave Horseheads a third double-figure scorer, finishing with 11 points while hitting three 3-pointers.
Blue Raiders senior guard Tess Wicks finished with eight points. She fell hard late in the third quarter, hitting her head on the floor. She sat out the rest of the game with an ice pack on the back of her head, and judging from her and her teammates’ reaction afterward, she appears fine to be able to play Sunday.
Freshman Emily Merrill led the Indians with11 points. Olivia Bishop contributed eight points, four of them coming in the first four minutes of the game.