The Elmira boys basketball team clinched the Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Division title earlier this week. On Thursday night at Southside, the Express prevented Union-Endicott from wrapping up the Metro Division title.
In an up-and-down game that saw multiple players on both teams take over at times, Trevon Hamilton delivered the final blow, hitting a layup just before the buzzer as the Express won in overtime, 93-91.
“Outstanding game. Both teams played with high intensity,” Elmira head coach Ryan Johnson said. “That’s great high school basketball. We knew it was going to be a slugfest and we knew we were going to have to get up and down.”
Alex Bellardini led Elmira (11-5, 11-3 STAC) with 31 points, including seven 3-pointers. Eli Thomas added 21 points and 12 rebounds, Jadakis Brooks had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Tyler Moffe scored 13 points as the Express avenged an earlier 77-57 loss at U-E.
Thursday’s game marked the return of Elmira senior forward Zach Nierstedt, who hadn’t played this season after surgery on his hip in November. Nierstedt didn’t score, but Johnson said he provided quality minutes.
“It just took a team effort,” Hamilton said. “This team is a tough team to play against. They’re coached really well and we’re coached really well and I knew it was going to be a tough game. We just got through it and got the win.”
C.J. Krowiak led the Tigers (12-3, 10-3) with 25 points. Joey Orlando added 19 points and Osama Barwari scored 17, including all eight of his team’s overtime points.
The Tigers, who now hold a half-game lead over Maine-Endwell with one game left, will try to win the Metro at home Friday night against Corning. Elmira hosts a STAC tournament semifinal Wednesday, likely against Norwich.
“We gave up 93 points,” U-E coach Joe Alger said of the difference in the game. “We knew coming down here would be difficult. It’s always a tough place to come and play. We were down seven there with two and a half, three minutes to go in the fourth quarter and we came back to go into overtime. So I’m proud of my boys to fight through that, especially all the elements down here we fought through coming on the road.”
Matthew Eastman scored all 14 of his points in the fourth quarter, hitting four 3-pointers to help the Tigers overcome a 74-67 deficit. His 3 with 1:31 left put U-E up 79-78.
Elmira tied the score at 83-83 on a bucket from Hamilton with four seconds left. Krowiak’s half-court shot at the buzzer hit the rim.
The Tigers led 91-89 in overtime when Thomas made a tying layup with 39 seconds left. After a U-E miss, Moffe got the ball on the left side of the court and dribbled quickly past half court before getting the ball to Hamilton, who scored with 0.3 seconds left.
Johnson said he was looking to call a timeout, but his assistants pulled him back when they saw Hamilton wide open.
“I just knew I had to get back and stay down there and he was coming so he could dish it off to me and just hope it goes in,” Hamilton said.