Elmira’s offense stalled at inopportune times, which Norwich took advantage of for an 65-50 victory in a Southern Tier Athletic Conference boys basketball semifinal Wednesday night at Southside High.
The Purple Tornado (17-0) will face Union-Endicott in the championship game at 7:45 p.m. Friday at Binghamton University’s Events Center. U-E defeated Susquehanna Valley 82-49 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
The Express (11-6) kept within striking distance for most of the game before Norwich outscored Elmira 10-2 over the last 3 minutes and 44 seconds.
The Purple Tornado rolled behind the 1-2 punch of Zan Stewart and Storm Cook, who finished with 19 and 17 points, respectively.
Cook hurt Elmira with his offensive rebounding and an accurate shot from the corner. Stewart, who had 16 points at halftime, created a lot of his offense and also set up teammates.
Michael Oralls chipped in with 11 points.
Trevon Hamilton paced Elmira with 17 points, 14 coming in the first half. Tyler Moffe finished with 12.
The Express struggled offensively on the second and fourth quarters, producing a combined 15 points in that span.
“Our pet peeve has been consistency. We’ve had droughts like we did in the second (eight points),” Elmira coach Ryan Johnson said. “That makes it tough against a team of this caliber.”
The first quarter had the look of a track meet, with Norwich leading 21-19 after the opening eight minutes.
It was the only period where Elmira ever led, its last one 9-8 on a Hamilton conversion off a rebound a little less than three minutes into the game.
Norwich stayed in front after that but couldn’t pull away.
The Purple Tornado went up by 11 (38-27) on Cook’s shot from the corner 23 seconds into the third quarter. Elmira responded with an 11-5 spurt to close the gap.
“At times we got transition baskets. There were some good things,” Johnson said.
The Express was still in striking distance with 4:10 to go, trailing just 53-47. Then things unraveled, and Stewart was able to get some easy layups to close things out.
“They outplayed us in all areas of the game,” Johnson said of the fourth-ranked team in Class B by the New York State Sportswriters Association. “They’re well coached, disciplined and play hard.”
Elmira isn’t through, as the Section 4 playoffs are coming up. The Express will likely get a home game in the opening round of Class AA play.
Johnson said the Norwich result will provide a strong incentive.
“It’s always good to play games like this one,” he said.