Susquehanna Valley demonstrated a bit of second-half mettle Friday night to ward off a stain on the final perfect record in Southern Tier Athletic Conference boys basketball.
Brendon Normile scored a team-high 24 points for the Sabers, who squelched an eight-game Johnson City win streak with a 70-60 victory.
SV saw a 14-point second-quarter lead give way to a four-point, third-quarter deficit before 6-foot-8 Normile fueled a 16-point SV spree that concluded with a 56-44 advantage.
Susquehanna Valley improved to a 10-0 record that includes a STAC Central Division-leading 8-0 mark. The loss left fellow Central member JC 11-3 and 8-2, its setback the first since a Dec. 14 humbling at the hands of Cicero-North Syracuse.
SV guards Austin Simon, Jason Fiorentino and Colin Manchester teamed for 36 points with five 3-point goals, holding up their end as part of a first five that includes Normile and Aaron Cornish.
“Tough to defend 6-8/6-8 as well as a couple guys who can rip the nets,” said JC coach Bill Spalik, whose team absorbed a 56-31 home-court loss to SV on Dec. 7.
The rematch had the ingredients of something similarly one-sided early on, when the Sabers charged to leads of 16-4 and 23-9.
However, the Wildcats scrapped their way to a 26-26 deadlock when Colin Arvanitakis converted a 3-pointer from the wing midway through the second quarter.
It was his second in inside a minute from near the same spot, though the first was far more challenging — a rushed, off-balance, well-harried stinger delivered while fading considerably to his right and with about half-a-speck on the shot clock.
SV answered with six straight points, the first five by Fiorentino, and by halftime the Sabers led by 35-32.
A quick eight-point flurry by JC that brought consecutive 3-pointers from Max Marshall and Matt Czeitner — both launched from in front of the Wildcats’ bench — made for a lead that the guests would hold for a shade over four minutes worth of angst experienced by SV’s faithful.
That lead vanished, however, when Normile converted on the block and, after being whacked in the act, made good from the line for a 46-44 SV lead with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter.
He made it back-to-back old-school three-point plays 22 seconds later. Normile positioned himself on the left block to coral a 3-point miss by Manchester from the opposite wing and drop in a left-handed follow. The accompanying freebie made it 49-44.
Vince LaMantia sneaked into the lane for a goal to close the quarter and it was a 51-44 Sabers advantage.
Normile opened final-quarter scoring by pushing in his second 3-point goal of the night 34 seconds in, and added a layup in transition to make it a 56-44 spread.
Johnson City’s final push was almost exclusively the doing of junior guard Czeitner, who closed with a JC-best 20 points.
After the Wildcats dropped behind by 60-48, Czeitner bagged back-to-back 3-point goals, two free throws, then penetrated for a bucket after his size-up from beyond the arc was wisely acknowledged with great respect.
But Susquehanna Valley tucked this one away with 9-for-10 accuracy from the line to keep alive one of two unbeaten STAC basketball records — the other belonging to Oneonta’s girls.
“We’ve kind of been flying under the radar, which has been nice,” coach Mark Ward said. “Know what? It’s perfect. We don’t want anyone to know about us.”
Upcoming STAC playoffs figure to take care of that.