Norwich 65, Elmira 50
ELMIRA – Around these parts, a STAC basketball championship comes about as frequently as a state title.
Norwich will vie for its first league title in 20 years Friday after eliminating Elmira from the league semifinals for the second straight season Wednesday evening. The unbeaten Purple Tornado (17-0) will meet Union-Endicott in the league finals Friday at 7:45 p.m. at the Binghamton Events Center.
Elmira was coming off a 93-point effort in a win over U-E last week. After a breakneck opening quarter in which both clubs scored almost at will, the Tornado slowed down the Express without slowing down the game.
Elmira’s offense was so befuddled by Norwich’s defensive five, it had just seven points over the final eight minutes of play.
“We called a timeout with four minutes left, and I saw we were leading by eight (55-47),” Collier said. “I told (the team) that we were NOT giving up eight points in the last four minutes. We just played absolute lock-down defense.”
True to Collier’s words, Norwich didn’t give up eight points, in fact, it didn’t allow a single field goal the second half of the fourth quarter. Instead, Elmira was limited to three free throws the rest of the way. It was a far cry from Elmira’s offensive explosion a week ago, and if not for its quick start, the Express may have struggled to crack 40 points.
“At the end of the game, we leaned on what we do best – our defense,” Collier said. “It was a tremendous defensive effort by all of our players.”
Zan Stewart led all scorers with 19, and he was the chief defender of Elmira’s top scorer, Tyler Moffe. Moffe scored 12 points, five below his season average. Senior Mike Sutton had a season-low six points, but his overall floor game drew plaudits from Collier, and Sutton was essentially the roving defender switching off whomever had the hot hand on the Elmira side. Sutton helped limit Elmira’s second leading scorer, Alex Bellardini, to just four points. Meanwhile, NHS’s two-headed rotation of Matt Burke and Carlos Ithier at guard took turns checking Elmira’s third double figures scorer, Eli Thomas. Thomas had one of Elmira’s two hoops in the fourth, but mustered just five points.