With its division title hopes in danger of taking a damaging blow, the Horseheads boys basketball team turned in a much sharper offensive effort in the second half to rally for a 62-58 victory over Corning on Friday night.
Junior forward Foster Clark scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half as the Blue Raiders (8-6, 8-4 STAC) overcame a seven-point halftime deficit to move within a half-game of idle Elmira in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference West Division.
Elmira (8-5, 8-3) plays at Ithaca on Saturday, then travels to Horseheads on Monday in the second-to-last conference game for both teams.
“I thought we screened better, moved the ball better, attacked and tried to get to the paint a lot more in the second half,” Horseheads coach Jeff Limoncelli said.
“We did a lot of passing the ball the around against their 1-3-1 (zone) and then when they went to (man-to-man) we still seemed to be in a funk and just passing the ball around instead of going north and south like we usually do. It was just a matter of finally breaking through and being aggressive and understanding what we can do well.”
After failing to even take a free throw in the first half, Horseheads connected on 11 of 13 foul shots in the second half. That included a 5-for-6 effort in the third quarter, when the Raiders outscored Corning 17-14 to get within 44-40 after taking the lead briefly at 40-38.
Clark went 5-for-6 at the foul line and Devonte Gaskins was 3-for-3, including a free throw that capped a three-point play following a drive through the lane. That play gave the Raiders the lead for good, 47-46, with 6 minutes, 19 seconds remaining.
Back-to-back buckets from Foster Clark extended the advantage to 51-46.
“Devonte with the steal and the three-point play, I thought we took off from there,” Limoncelli said.
Gaskins finished with 11 points before fouling out with 1:20 to play. Chris Corcoran also scored 11 points for Horseheads.
Horseheads took better care of the ball in the second half after eight turnovers in the second quarter helped Corning outscore the Raiders 15-8 to take a 30-23 halftime lead.
Spencer Passmore scored 21 points for Corning (1-12, 0-11). All of the points came in the paint for the 6-foot-6 senior, who connected on seven of 11 free throws.
The Hawks moved within one when Anthony Corby nailed a 3-pointer with 2:41 remaining, but they missed a wide-open layup, threw the ball away on another possession and had another shot rejected by Foster Clark in the closing minutes.
Ben Clark nailed both ends of a one-and-one to give Horseheads its biggest lead, 61-54, with 26 seconds remaining.
“We had a couple of opportunities that we didn’t cash in layup-wise,” Corning coach Rick Gallant said. “That’s kind of the difference between a team that’s used to that. … We’ve been in games like that all the time, it’s just our downfall usually happens a lot earlier than that. I was real pleased that it looked like we were going to hit that wall and we got back out of it and got back in the game.
“It was a good effort. Our kids played really, really hard and the Horseheads kids played hard and they did make plays when they needed them.”