BINGHAMTON – In head coach Mark Abbott’s estimation, Norwich scored high for intensity, effort, and desire to win. The only thing missing on the scorecard was a few less points than Vestal.
The Golden Bears won their first STAC title in 37 years in 2005, but it only needed a four-year gap to grab its next one defeating the Tornado Saturday night at the Binghamton University Event Center, 54-47.
Norwich had plenty of energy during a fourth-quarter surge in which it pared Vestal’s 11-point lead down to three late in the game. Three good looks at tying three-pointers were a hair on the long side. Vestal’s Mike Patterson and Jeremy Baltz put the game away at the foul line combining on 4-for-4 charity tossing.
“Those were good looks that were right on,” Abbott said. “You don’t change anything in that situation. They hit a couple of tough ones and we missed, that was pretty much it. Teams make plays or they don’t make plays. That’s basketball.”
One component to the Vestal arsenal that was absent in Norwich’s one-point victory over the Bears in December was Baltz. He put 13 points on the board, while Patterson was much better in the second meeting over the first hitting for a game-high 15 points. Patterson made the last three looks he had at three-pointers, and he deftly drained those with the aplomb of Larry Bird, and with a similar flick of the wrist from long range as the one-time Celtics legend.
“Patterson is fearless,” said Greene head coach Ryan Hayes. “We had one talk about a fadeaway turnaround that we didn’t like, but when he squares up from behind the line, I don’t care how far behind it he is. He’s deadly, and I usually don’t say no (to that shot).”
Momentum swung the Golden Bears’ way in the second quarter. While the Tornado shot themselves into the seven-point halftime hole on 2-for-10 shooting, it was also a bit careless with the ball committing four turnovers.
Vaughn Labor’s basket – set up by a Josh Borfitz helper – pulled Norwich into a 19-19 tie. Baltz broke that tie 20 seconds later when he curled off a screen, and took a pass from Cameron Boyden for a go-ahead layup. Adam Smith picked up a steal, and scored immediately putting the lead at four, and Patterson knocked down a patented three-point bomb giving the Bears seven points worth of breathing room at intermission.
“Spacing is so key to our offense, and we got a little bunched in the second quarter,” Abbott said. “We had a little lull that hurt us, but I thought we had a lot more quality looks in the second half. It wasn’t anything (Vestal) did wrong, we just played better offensively.”
Vestal also had a quick retort any time Norwich appeared poised to make a surge. Down 32-21 early in the third, Derek Hughes hit a three for NHS and David Carson beat Vestal down the floor and converted Borfitz’s set-up pass slicing the lead to 32-26. Patterson moved the lead back to nine with another deep three ball over the outstretched hand of a Purple-clad defender...