Following the lead of junior guard Adam Gallagher’s finest outing this winter, Maine-Endwell repelled Union-Endicott’s late surge Friday night to claim a 66-62 Southern Tier Athletic Conference basketball victory.
The gymnasium’s seating capacity of 1,802 appeared just about spoken for, and nary a ticket holder would suggest that this one wasn’t worth the admission fee and then some.
Gallagher’s season-best 15 points featured nine to go with several assists during a third quarter in which M-E flipped a one-point deficit into a seven-point advantage. That lead would expand to nine then shrink to two — both in the closing 2:08 — before the Spartans avenged a seven-point home-court loss.
Kyle Gallagher had 18 points and eight rebounds, Alec Wisniewski 14 points and Jake Sinicki 13 points to go with eight rebounds and four steals for the winners. But the chief difference-maker, particularly after halftime, was Adam Gallagher, who tacked on seven assists, a 3-point goal and 6-for-8 free throw shooting.
All the while, Adam was charged with tagging the league’s scoring leader. And while C.J. Krowiak closed with 25 points — “He didn’t get anything easy,” M-E coach Bill Ocker said.
“Adam was a spark offensively. I though he did his best to control the situation offensively for us, and then defensively we had to do our damndest to see that whatever C.J. got he was going to earn. And I thought Adam did a great job.”
The win wasn’t in M-E’s hip pocket until Kyle Gallagher converted two free throws for the final points with 4.6 seconds remaining. Those successes followed a stretch of butchery on uncontested 15-footers in which the sides chopped up 1-for-10 ineptitude in the closing minute preceding Gallagher’s lock-up conversions.
Correct: One make in 10 attempts — when it mattered most — by two of the area’s top-tier boys varsities.
The third quarter began with Adam Gallagher penetrating for a goal and then flushing a 3-pointer from the corner courtesy of Sinicki’s exit feed. Gallagher then assisted back-to-back Spartans buckets before, 4:13 into the half, big brother Kyle put his team on top for good with an authoritative put-back to make it 39-38.
It became a six-point M-E lead when Sinicki canned a short turnaround jumper off Kyle Gallagher’s offensive rebound, and Wisniewski made it 49-42 to close the quarter by converting inside off Adam Gallagher’s jump-feed to the block.
Adam assisted on M-E’s first two goals during a punch-and-counter-punch opening to the final quarter, and his strong left-handed follow-up of Kyle’s 3-point misfire made it 59-50 with 2:08 remaining. The last nine-point difference, 61-52, was created when Wisniewski strong-armed one home after receiving Kyle’s pass from the high post.
“We kind of got away from what we were doing, we gave them a lot of easy baskets,” Tigers coach Joe Alger said of the guests’ take-charge stretch. “We switched to a zone and rattled them the first couple possessions, and then gave up a couple easy dribble-drives in and a quick dump to their big guys playing below the zone.”
But back charged U-E, beginning with Krowiak driving for two and then converting two free throws. When Matt Gaydorus lofted home a dead-on 3-pointer from the right corner with 53 seconds left, U-E was within 63-59.
Another 3-pointer, this one by Joey Orlando on a pull-up from atop the arc with 14 seconds left, had the Tigers within 64-62.
Kyle Gallagher missed two freebies with 12.4 seconds to play, and Krowiak was off the mark on a driving layup — staunchly defended by Adam Gallagher — with five seconds remaining before Kyle wrapped it up from the line.
“That’s a great team win, huge for us,” said Adam Gallagher, who didn’t miss a second of action. “We want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year. We’re getting better and better each game.”
As for the offensive assertiveness that enabled him to triple his season scoring average, Adam added: “We’ve got a lot of people who can score, a bunch of really talented people. I’m usually the one who’s trying to get the offense going, just kind of steering everybody in the right direction. Tonight I got a couple of good bounces and made some nice plays.”
In the first half, it was U-E’s Osama Barwari carrying the offensive load. He scored 11 in the first half and had 16 by halftime before Kyle Gallagher’s resistance was largely responsible for his cooling to a three-point second half.