Once again, the thrill-o-meter’s needle nudged a maximum reading for the entirety of Maine-Endwell vs. Binghamton. And for the second time in a shade over a month, the Spartans had the better of things — by a whisker or so.
Senior forward Chris Heimes contributed 11 points, 12 rebounds and damn-near his last bit of energy to a 49-47 win that left M-E a leg up on the Patriots with regard to Southern Tier Athletic Conference basketball playoffs.
Though they led for the final 4 minutes and 50 seconds, the Spartans weren’t clear to celebrate until a corner jump shot by Eginhard Jean Philippe caromed off the back rim as time expired.
The teams have scrapped thrice, and a combined nine points have separated them.
Clutch Field Goal of the Game honors go to 6-foot-7 Heimes, who accepted Jake Sinicki’s penetrating feed and, with 19 seconds on the game clock and 1 on the shot clock, canned a hurried-but-controlled short baseline jump shot for a 47-44 advantage.
Though thrust unexpectedly into a make-or-bust role in the frenetic possession, Heimes’ improvisational delivery dropped without so much as a graze of iron.
Sinicki then made a steal high on the perimeter and, after being whacked immediately, hit both free throws for a five-point lead with 11.8 seconds left.
But back stormed Binghamton with a 3-point goal from the corner by Seth West and it was a two-point difference with 7.5 left. The Spartans’ Kyle Gallagher misfired from the line with seven seconds to play, leaving the Pats that final opportunity.
M-E (8-2) improved to a 7-1 STAC record and leads fellow Metro Division member Binghamton by one in the loss column. There’ll be room for one of the two in conference playoffs next month — meaning STAC’s second-best team will not participate.
Binghamton’s Jamie Curtis, a 5-11 senior whose inside-outside effectiveness and aggressive offensive nature bedeviled M-E for a third consecutive game, closed with a team-high 18 points. The second of his 3-point goals — jab-step teaser, step-back and launch — drew the Pats within a point with 1:54 to play.
“When we played (Dec. 30) in the Arena, they got way too many offensive rebounds and we weren’t tough down the stretch,” Heimes said. “In practice, coach emphasized being tough and disciplined, and we were.”
That Heimes would play a primary role in this game was established when he scored seven points in a three-minute stretch of the second quarter, two of the goals assisted by a driving Adam Gallagher.
Heimes was scoreless in the third, though his efforts featured a notable lunge to the deck to secure a free ball and signal timeout with a couple minutes left. Suffice to say the big guy was deserving of a hearty post-game meal followed by a pull of his alarm clock’s plug.
“We kind of tweaked how we played offensively, we did a lot more off the dribble and put him in a position to maybe get some drop-offs and some offensive-rebounding opportunities — and he was an animal around the glass,” Spartans coach Bill Ocker said.
Binghamton took a 37-35 lead into the final quarter courtesy of a Andre Yevchinecz’s conversion inside off a penetrating jump-feed from KJ Rose with two seconds remaining.
The scoreboard displayed Binghamton’s largest lead, 33-28, midway through the third when Yevchinecz finished in transition. Those were the last of eight consecutive Patriots points that included goals by Curtis on a strong drive to the rim and on a gimme off an M-E giveaway.
M-E was ahead for keeps once Kyle Gallagher’s third and final 3-point success made it 41-39 with 4:50 remaining — and kid brother Adam charged forcefully to the hole to make it a four-point spread 33 seconds later.
Sinicki, a 6-5 junior who continues to play through a knee ailment, closed with 11 points in an outing that suggested he’ll be a significant factor through the season’s second half.
Point guard Rose added 13 points for Binghamton against an M-E squad clearly bent on utter refusal to permit him anything easy around the backboard.