NORWICH – Norwich turned to two staples Wednesday night against Horseheads in their Southern Tier Athletic Conference boys basketball semifinal: defense and Tre Bonham’s jump shot.
Bonham, a sophomore reserve, hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1 minute, 10 seconds left and the Purple Tornado held on for a 44-43 victory after trailing by as many as 14 in the first half.
“Tre Bonham shows up in the gym at 5 o’clock every morning at this school,” Norwich head coach Tom Collier said. “He does a workout and he makes 300 jump shots every morning.”
Collier said the play was designed to get the ball into Bonham’s hands, but he didn’t get the contested look from near the top of the circle until the shot clock was down to one second.
“You just saw what it takes,” Collier said. “Nobody deserved to make that shot more than Tre Bonham, with his work ethic. … Some people didn’t think he should be here as a sophomore. He just proved why he’s here.”
Norwich (15-3) will play for a second straight STAC title Friday when it faces Binghamton in the championship game at Union-Endicott High School. The time will be announced.
Senior Michael Oralls scored eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter for Norwich, including a 3-pointer with 2:20 remaining that got the Tornado even for the first time since early in the contest, 41-41. Zan Stewart added 11 points.
“It could have went their way or our way, and it went our way. We ended up lucky tonight,” Collier said. “They’re a great team. They gave us a great game. I thought it was a great atmosphere and I’m really, really proud of my kids for coming back from 14 down. They showed the character of who they were tonight.”
Foster Clark led Horseheads (12-6) with 23 points, including 14 in the opening half. His play was a big reason the Blue Raiders led 22-8 in the second quarter and 25-15 at the half. Ben Clark contributed 10 points.
“I haven’t been as proud of a basketball team as I have been tonight,” Horseheads head coach Jeff Limoncelli said. “I just think it’s a tough place to play against a very good offensive team, what they run. And I thought defensively we were outstanding. We were a point shy, but I take away from this as being proud to coach my kids.”
Horseheads had its chances in the final seconds after Foster Clark’s layup with 45 seconds left brought the Raiders within 44-43.
After Stewart missed two free throws for Norwich with 21 seconds left, the Raiders’ Sean Paul Owen was fouled as he drove toward the basket with 4.7 seconds remaining. He also missed both, but the rebound was deflected out of bounds off Norwich.
Both teams called timeouts and Horseheads tried to get the ball to Foster Clark on a lob in the paint. The pass was knocked away and Foster Clark tracked the ball down and tried for a desperation shot, but a Norwich player leaped at the same time and got his hand on the ball, giving possession back to the Tornado on a held ball. Horseheads fouled with 0.4 seconds left and Stewart missed both free throws before the clock ran out.
“We knew the ball was going to go to Foster. He’s their best player; he’s a great player,” Collier said. “We did the best we could to defend it and I think it was Zan Stewart who did a great job, he tipped it out and we ended up with the ball.”
Three consecutive three-point plays in the third quarter helped Norwich climb within 30-26 before Devonte Gaskins’ bucket gave the Raiders a six-point lead after three quarters.
Ben Clark’s 3-pointer extended the advantage to nine 13 seconds into the fourth, but Norwich battled back with a 10-2 spurt after trailing 37-28.
On Twitter: @SGAndrewLegare