Final-quarter play commenced Wednesday night with a point separating the gals from Owego and Vestal, and with Golden Bears guard Noelle Patterson church mouse-silent to that juncture on the offensive end.
Then came a who’d-a-thunk-it segment of play in which the hosts could do little wrong — and the guests damn-near zilch right — resulting in a 53-37 Vestal pullaway and passage into Section 4’s Class A basketball title game.
The Bears accounted for the first 14 points of the fourth period, denied Owego a field goal until the closing 90 seconds and made a relative rout of what had been a dice-roll proposition with 24 minutes elapsed.
Patterson, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, crammed all of her game-best 11 points into a final-quarter stretch of 4 1-12 minutes, and four mates added eight apiece. Emily Merrill and Jill Silvanic each scored 10 for Owego.
Ahead for Vestal is a rubber match with reigning champion Maine-Endwell, to be played 6 p.m. a week from Friday at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
Fortunate recipients of the memo updating Wednesday’s tipoff time to 6 p.m. — contrary to that listed on the Section 4-issued bracket — saw an opening half conclude with the visitors ahead by 20-17 following a second-quarter stalemate.
A not-much-happening third quarter was capped by Alyssa Mullins converting Alex Evans’ feed to the post for a goal that had Vestal (13-3) within 31-30 to open the fourth. And then?
“Our shots started falling, plain and simple,” said Golden Bears coach Joe Reynolds. “If I had a shot chart, I would think the same shots we were missing in the first half we started making.”
And, as Patterson said, “I think we just got more aggressive and we understood, we don’t want to stop playing, we want to keep going. We want to make it to the Arena and play Maine-Endwell again. I think it’s going to be a great game against them.”
Final-quarter scoring began when Mullins accepted Molly Liss’ pass from the corner and finished one minute in. Next came Patterson’s initial scorebook entry, a 3-pointer from up top over Owego’s slow-to-adjust zone resistance and it was 35-31.
Jen Shelp then came up with a gem of a hustle play for Vestal, sprinting back to block a shot by Kim Lavender, who’d made a steal and ball-handled one-on-none until being caught from behind by Shelp. That came with 5:30 to play, and 13 seconds later came a play that’ll rank high on any purist’s Play of the Season list.
Mullins accepts a pass along the baseline, feeds Shelp darting down the lane — then receives a one-touch comebacker for a layup and 37-31 Vestal advantage. Not so much basketball as artwork is what that was.
“Those two girls have played hundreds of games together, so when they start clicking like that they’re tough for anybody to guard,” Reynolds said. And of his squad’s ball movement as a whole during the quarter — “It was great, absolutely.”
Next came a set-and-deliver 3-pointer from the wing by Patterson that eluded iron altogether, and then her steal-and-go for a layup and 42-31 Bears advantage midway into the quarter. Mullins tacked on a mid-range baseline conversion before Kaylee Miner bagged two free throws for the Indians first points of the quarter 4:44 in.
If the win was not sewn up previously, Patterson stamped it a no-doubter by canning her third 3-pointer of the quarter off Mullins’ assist and it was 49-33 with 1:53 left.
The young lady has been on something of an offensive roll of late, regaining confidence in her perimeter game that had taken temporary leave of absence.
“And she’s starting to handle more point guard duties to take some pressure off Jen,” Reynolds said. “She’s really matured a lot over the last few months. She was the difference down the stretch.”
Among those from Owego playing their final high school game was Rachel Merrill, scorer of better than 1,000 points and bound for the University of Vermont. She was limited to five points.