Elmira Escapes Norwich With Double OT Victory
Published: December 22nd, 2021
By: Robert Jeffrey

NORWICH- If admission was charged, this game would be worth the price. It was a heavy weight match between two traditionally excellent girls’ basketball programs; the 17th ranked Elmira Express in Class AA and Norwich- the 13th ranked team in Class B. But on Tuesday night the visiting Elmira Express escaped the Norwich Purple Tornado with an 89-86 double overtime victory.

The atmosphere at the Jack Jones gymnasium? Simply euphoric- which made for an instantaneous high school hardwood classic. At the end of the first half of play, Elmira headed to the locker room with a 32-22 lead over the Tornado.

“There were a couple moments in the first half where we looked like complete panic” said Norwich Head Coach Josh Bennett on his team’s first half performance, “So for us to come out in the second half and execute our stuff…we grew up a lot in that game.”

And the Purple Tornado certainly did grow up. Norwich flipped the script on the Express by exploding for 25 points in the pivotal third period; cutting the Elmira lead to 52-47 by the conclusion of the quarter. With NHS down by five points to start the fourth, it set up for a dramatic fourth period.

The Express rode on the shoulders of Jalea Abrams and Amarionah Dixon who combined for 16 of their team’s 18 points in the fourth. Abrams in particular scored 10 of her game-high 40 points in the final regulation period, knocking down two of her seven three pointers in the contest during the final eight minutes of regulation.

“At every timeout we were talking about making sure she (Abrams) didn’t have a chance to take deep and step back threes” said Bennett, “(Abrams) made a lot of tough shots.”

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Offsetting the Express offense was a sequence of timely three point bombs by the Tornado. NHS splashed five of the 10 treys in the contest during the fourth period. Norwich senior Maddy Morris sunk two treys, Emily Evans, Olivia Schiraldi and Margaret Dougher each drained a well-timed three.

“We made an unbelievable amount of tough shots…there were at least five times where we deserved to lose and my kids didn’t quit, didn’t panic.”

As the game waned into the final minutes- the energy in the gym climbed with each lead change. Which was only further exacerbated by a scramble for a loose ball with the score knotted at 71 with only seconds remaining. Norwich came up with the basketball and quickly pushed to Emily Evans, whose half-court heave was blocked as time expired in regulation.

“It was like a sectional final game…you don’t get to create that atmosphere if you aren’t in this situation…that’s what high school athletics is all about” said Bennett about the intense crowd involvement during the game.

In the first overtime period- it was much of the same high paced game that fans had been accustomed to all night long. That fast pace proved to be the double-edge sword for the Purple as coach Josh Bennett said “it became an issue of fouls and endurance at the end” noting that Emily Evans and MacKenzie Hess played the entirety of the game.

With neither team able to get a clear advantage in the overtime period, the two evenly matched clubs turned to another extra four minute period. This time- Elmira took no time in extending into a definitive lead.

Elmira’s Abrams sandwiched her seventh three pointer of the ballgame between a pair of free throws to put the Express out in front before drawing her fifth and final foul with just under three minutes left to play. Elmira extended their lead to seven points in the final overtime period, and the closest Norwich got the rest of the game was to two points- ultimately succumbing to the Express.

“(Elmira) was up seven in the second overtime, and for us to get it back to two after being down seven...our kids just kept plugging along” added Bennett, “Elmira has been running through all of the bigger schools…they have been the stronger team on the other side of the (STAC) conference.”

Emily Evans led the Purple in scoring with a career-high 33 points. Maddy Morris pitched in 17 and MacKenzie Hess added in 11 points for Norwich.

Jalea Abrams led the Express with a game high 40 points. Lauren Miller scored 15 points, Amarionah Dixon and Megan Fedor each threw in 10 points for Elmira.

Norwich (2-1) is scheduled to be back in action on Thursday December 23rd at 6:30pm when they host the Jugglers of Utica Notre Dame at Norwich High School.

Score by Quarters

Elmira: 14 18 21 18 9 9-89

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Norwich: 15 7 25 24 9 6-86

Norwich (2-1): Maddy Morris 17, Olivia Schiraldi 5, Emily Evans 33, Devin Flanagan 7, Margaret Dougher 7, Julie Turner 0, Cameron VanHouten 6, MacKenzie Hess 11, Julia Llewellyn 0. 31 FG, 14-20 FT – 86

Elmira (5-1): K. Inman 6, J. Abrams 40, L. Miller 15, A. Dixon 10, L. Burchard 2, J. Harris 6, K. Arnold 0, M. Fedor 10, R. Rhiannon 0. 32 FG 18-26 FT- 89

3-point goals: Norwich 10 (Morris 4, Evans 3, Schiraldi, Flanagan, Hess); Elmira 7 (J. Abrams 7).