Facing a five-point halftime hole, Moravia turned its defensive intensity up to a championship level Friday night and rallied for a 55-51 victory over Odessa-Montour in the Interscholastic Athletic Conference Small School boys basketball title game at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
The Blue Devils (16-2) used their full-court pressure to force O-M into seven turnovers in the third quarter and outscored the Indians 20-10 in the period to take control before holding on in the final minute.
North Division champion Moravia earned its third IAC Small School title in the last four years.
“That’s exactly what we talked about (at halftime) was the way we were playing defensively in the first half,” Moravia coach Todd Mulvaney said. “We’re capable of playing better than we showed in the first half. The biggest message we sent to our guys was that we needed to dig in and get stops, eliminate the penetration.”
Those defensive stops also helped Moravia on the offensive end after a first half dominated by 6-foot-5 O-M senior center Tom Peckham, who blocked seven shots in those 16 minutes.
Moravia hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter to grab a 45-40 lead, minimizing Peckham’s presence with its outside shooting and improved movement without the ball.
“He did a great job of dictating the paint early in the game. He was doing a good job of protecting the rim,” Mulvaney said. “I think we dwelled on the negative a little too much. We were missing some shots we were used to hitting and it stuck in their head. We said, ‘You’ve just go to move on.'”
Four players scored in double figures for Moravia, led by 14 points from Chase Walker, who clinched the win with two free throws in the closing seconds. Chandler Benson and Dylan Powers scored 12 points each. Jared Lyon connected for 10 points, including two 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Morgan Shutter led South Division champion O-M (13-5) with 18 points, including 10 in the second quarter to help the Indians outscore Moravia 13-8 and take a 30-25 halftime lead. He scored on three breakaways in the second quarter but was limited to one fast-break hoop in the second half.
Peckham contributed 15 points to go with his rebounding and defensive effort.
“We fought hard. I’m proud as hell of the kids,” O-M coach Brad Clark said. “We won the division and we represented ourselves and played well tonight.”
Little came easy for O-M in the second half. The Indians scored only one point from the foul line in five tries during the game and Moravia was able to pressure O-M without fouling. The Devils’ first foul of the second half didn’t come until there was 3:44 remaining.
“We made some lazy passes. They were getting a little tired there,” Clark said. “That’s part of the game. They’re a great defensive team and they got after us there. It took us a while to recover and adjust. I think we did. We came back. We had a shot to tie it at the end and didn’t quite get it done.
“There were a couple of fouls that could have went either way. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the calls. But that’s part of playing a good, aggressive basketball game. I think overall they were letting us play.”
The Indians trailed 49-42 with six minutes left before Tanner Dupuy’s 3-pointer brought them within four with 5:10 left. Dupuy hit another 3 with 2:33 to go to close the gap to 53-50.
Matt Bleiler hit one of two foul shots for O-M with 1:40 left to cut the lead to two, then had a potential tying shot blocked with 1:14 remaining.
After a series of timeouts and Moravia fouls, Bleiler was fouled going to the hoop with five seconds left. He missed the first shot before intentionally missing the second. Moravia rebounded and Walker sank two free throws to clinch the title.
“I think it says a lot about our kids in the program,” Mulvaney said of the championship. “They work extremely hard, mostly 12 months out of the year. Winning the division and an IAC championship, it shows the hard work they’re putting in.”