Things didn’t go quite the same way for Horseheads as it did the first time it played Vestal, but Friday still brought a familiar outcome for the Blue Raiders.
Amanda Schiefen had a game-high 20 points and Jen LaViola added 16 points as Horseheads overcame some sluggishness on the offensive end on its way to a 57-43 victory over the Golden Bears in a Southern Tier Athletic Conference girls basketball contest.
It was the second victory in as many games over Vestal for Horseheads (11-2, 10-2), which had already clinched the STAC West Division title. When the teams met on Dec. 17 at Horseheads, the Blue Raiders cruised to a 58-32 victory.
Horseheads wasn’t quite as sharp Friday, plagued by missed easy shots and some sloppy passing over the first three quarters as Vestal (8-2, 8-2) hung around.
But with Vestal on the verge of making things interesting in the fourth quarter, Horseheads stepped up, particularly Schiefen.
After a pair of free throws by Vestal’s Jen Shelp brought the Golden Bears within 39-32 with 6:36 remaining, Schiefen responded with a bank shot from close range to make it 41-32.
A runner by Shelp brought Vestal within 41-34 but Schiefen came back with another bank shot inside to make it 43-34 with five minutes remaining.
The teams traded scores for nearly the remainder of the quarter, with Horseheads hitting all 10 of its free throws over the final 4:30 after connecting on just 10 of 17 over the first three quarters to keep Vestal.
“We looked fatigued a bit, but we hung in there and played well,” Horseheads coach Andy Scott said. “We hit our free throws down the stretch and we hit shots when we needed to. It wasn’t our best offensive performance but when you hold a team under 45 you have a great shot of winning.”
Schiefen, who scored 12 of her 20 in the second half, said she made a conscious effort to get closer to the basket in the final quarter.
“I didn’t make my shots early on, but I knew I had to pull through,” Schiefen said. “They let me go left and I was able to finish near the basket.”
The tempo suited Vestal in the early going as the contest was played at a frenetic, if also sloppy, pace over the first five minutes.
But Vestal turned over the ball at a high rate in the quarter, and it finally burned them over the four minutes of the quarter.
After a pair of free throws by Alex Evans with 4:00 left tied the score at 6, Horseheads scored the final 10 points of the quarter.
LaViola nailed a 16-footer to make it 8-6, then followed with a pair of free throws before Schiefen scored the last six points — all on inside shots — to give Horseheads a 16-6 lead.
“We lost our defensive assignments, we forgot what we were doing and gave up easy buckets,” Vestal coach Joe Reynolds said of Horseheads’ closing surge in the first quarter. “I was more disappointed in that, I thought our energy level was where it needed to be.”
Horseheads eventually built a 14-point lead late in the third quarter when LaViola nailed a 15-footer to make it 36-22. Vestal responded with an 8-1 run — Evans scoring six of the eight — to get within 37-30 early in the fourth quarter, but the Golden Bears were unable to get closer.
Evans had 14 points and Shelp added 12 to pace Vestal, which will now turn its attention to next Friday’s road game at Maine-Endwell that will likely determine the Metro Division champion.
“Credit to my girls, we did compete this time,” Reynolds said. “We hung around the second half but unfortunately we just couldn’t get a little push, a six- or eight-point run that would have tightened things up for them. They were able to stay in their comfort zone.
“Our main focus now is Maine-Endwell. Beating them on their floor will be tough.”