A Maine-Endwell squad that surrendered nine Elmira points in the closing 1:42 of the third quarter Saturday yielded three thereafter.
So it went for the Spartans, who eased away to a 62-50 Southern Tier Athletic Conference basketball victory behind a combined 38 points from Jake Sinicki and Alec Wisniewski.
M-E went ahead for good when Kyle Gallagher stroked a 3-point goal from the left corner 20 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it 49-47, and dirty-worker-turned-marksman Wisniewski buried another from the top 1:13 later.
Elmira was within three points for a final time when Alex Bellardini tipped home a put-back to make it 52-49 with 5:39 remaining. But that would be the guests’ final field goal of the rescheduled matinee.
Sinicki scored 21 points, Wisniewski 17 and Gallagher 10 for STAC’s reigning champions, who’ve strung four wins since an inauspicious 1-2 start to the season. Junior guard Tyler Moffe tossed in 17 of his 24 points before halftime for Elmira (4-4).
Maine-Endwell held three eight-point leads in the first quarter, only to trail by two to start the second. Then the Express took a pair of six-point second-quarter leads, but trailed by a point at halftime.
Moffe was the most effective player on the floor in the first half — and next-best was not close. Entering the closing two minutes of the first quarter he’d accounted for a mere two free throws. But through halftime there was just about zero stopping him.
Moffe quick-released his way to two 3-point goals in the first quarter, and started second-quarter scoring by dribbling into a baseline jump shot. In succession, he converted a soft loft in motion in the lane, a 3-point pull-up from the wing, and another baseline jump shot off the dribble against M-E defenders left to wonder “What the … ?”
“He just seems like he has a little bit of a twinkle in his eye whenever he comes to our gym,” Spartans coach Bill Ocker said. “He is a tough kid to guard. He’s very smooth, he can shoot the ball, his range extended farther out that we guarded him early in the game.
“He’s just a really good all-around player. When we made it hard on him to get looks he made some very nice passes to his teammates.”
Maine-Endwell built its lead to 38-33 when, 14 seconds apart, Wisniewski transformed a forceful post move into a three-point play and Sinicki hit one of two free throws after being whacked while trying to tip in his own miss on a lobbed baseline inbound.
In fact, three times M-E’s lead was five in the third quarter. But with Moffe scoring the guests’ final seven points of the quarter, Elmira took a 47-46 advantage into the fourth. Among Moffe’s contributions late in the quarter was a fetching little step-back jumper from the wing.
But come the fourth, neither Moffe nor any of the maroon-clad visitors were able to dent M-E’s defense beyond one field goal and one free throw. So unproductive was Elmira offensively that M-E was able to gradually build its cushion despite 4-for-12 free throw shooting in the quarter.
Wisniewski’s 3-point goal that created the quarter’s initial five-point difference was result of a play called for him to launch — despite his two misfired freebies the possession before.
“He’s a good 3-point shooter. A lot of times he chooses not to shoot it, but he’s a good 3-point shooter,” Ocker said of his tough guy.
Wisniewski added an interior bucket off Sinicki’s penetrating set-up for a 55-49 lead, and consecutive steal-and-race layups from Sinicki made it a nine-point spread with 2½ to play.
While Express coach Ryan Johnson applauded Moffe’s offensive showing, he said, “We’ve got to have somebody else step up. He was drawing doubles and triples in the second half, M-E did a good job, we just didn’t have anybody who could step in and make a layup.
“We kind of stood around and watched rather than diving to the basket. We just didn’t do what we were supposed to do as a whole. But they did a nice job, made a nice adjustment on him.”