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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
HORSEHEADS — For the past two weeks the Horseheads Blue Raiders have thought about how the struggles they had in the second half at Elmira.

In that game the Blue Raiders struggled in the second half and dropped a game at Elmira. On Thursday they proved they learned from that experience as they turned in a dominant second half to beat Elmira 72-53.

The win is a big one in the division standings, but for Horseheads coach Jeff Limoncelli the thought was just about playing better than they did two weeks ago.

“I don’t know much about the division race,” Horseheads coach Jeff Limoncelli said. “All I know is for two weeks we knew we let one get away down there. I thought we had a good plan going down there, but in the second half of the game they just torched us and we played awful defensively. Matter of fact, they scored 49 points in the second half and I let them know about that for 14 days, so today was a better effort.”

In the third quarter Elmira made a run and got within three points. Down five the Express got a put back by Chris Woodard and a three by Tyre Daniel to make it 42-39.

Right after that Jackson Cook dove on the floor for a loose ball and got it to John Durr for a three, and Jeremy Truax quickly followed with a layup, and another basket and quickly it was a 10-point game.

“There is a loose ball on the next possession and we got three guys there to dive on the floor and the Cook kid dives on the floor and they kick it out and we are discombobulated now on the defensive end and they stick a three. Those are the most dangerous ones, offensive rebounds, loose balls you don’t pick up and dive on the floor for and it’s a kick out into a three.

“We cut it to three points and now all of a sudden it’s eight (after the three and layup), and you’ve got to take a time out and look at things. It’s a little frustrating and disappointing because it’s right there. I thought we played well enough through three quarters to keep it close. That’s what you want to do on the road, but we didn’t do some things tonight that really hurt us. We’ll figure it out.”

After Truax made it a 12 points game, Daugherty had a steal and layup to start the fourth and push the lead to 51-39.

Anthony Kitching was fouled and hit a free throw to make it an 11-point game, but Horseheads got back-to-back baskets by Jeremy Truax as Horseheads went up 15.

Woodard scored and Tyre Daniel hit a three to get the game back to 10, but a Jack Fesetch three and baskets by Jeremy Truax and Daugherty stretched the lead to 62-45 as Horseheads pulled away for the win.

For the Horseheads players it was special to get redemption against Elmira.

“It feels really good, knowing we lost last time, getting a big victory against them, our rivals, is really nice,” Alex Daugherty said.

“It motivated us a lot,” Jeremy Truax said of that last game against Elmira. “We prepared hard for that, what they did there that just fueled us even more and we just came out and got the W.”

Daugherty came out strong for the Blue Raiders right from the get go, scoring 14 of his game high 22 points in the opening half.

“I knew I had to come out hot and aggressive, because it’s a big game,” Daugherty said. “I did it and kept it the rest of the way and kept it rolling.”

Daugherty had that success on offense while defending Elmira’s star center Chris Woodard throughout the game.

“With Alex, I’m proud of him,” Limoncelli said. “I challenged him against Woodard, and that’s unfair. Woodard is the best big man in the league, he is so strong. But, Alex fights and fights. And, offensively I’m surprised he had enough legs to do what he did offensively, but that’s him. He’s competitive and I’m glad he’s for us.”

The first-half was nip and tuck most of the way, until the final minutes of the second quarter when Amauri Truax was fouled on a drive to the basket. There was a double technical called on both teams on the play and then Elmira’s bench was hit with a technical, and two made free throws, followed by a Daugherty bucket caused the lead to stretch to seven points.

Despite that, it was just 30-26 Horseheads at the half, and Limoncelli made sure his kids understood they had to play better in the second half, and that’s what they did.

“That’s exactly how I want my team to play, and we let them know in the locker room at halftime,” Limoncelli said. “It’s unacceptable. It’s a four-point game because we are just standing around, we are easy to guard. You can’t do that against that team. They are one of the best teams in Section 4. They are athletic, they can play. If we don’t move the ball and try and do some different things against them then we are going to get beat, like we did down there. We did some things in the second half. I thought we were hard to guard. WE finished our shots, made some big threes and extended the lead and that helped us.”

Five different players scored in the fourth quarter as the team spread the ball around on offense.

“In the fourth quarter we started running our offense even better,” Daugherty said. “We knew we had to get everyone involved, it wasn’t just about us (Daugherty and Jeremy Truax), so once we saw the open man, and we have shooters on our team, so when they are open they shoot it.

“I was very happy, it was Elmira, it was one of our biggest rivals, one of the biggest games of the season, so we knew we had to execute well and we did.”

The ball movement was a big part of the key to the success for Horseheads.

“We were moving the ball great,” Jeremy Truax said. “Moving it around and getting our offense good, that’s also what helped us get our lead and hold our lead.

“We are really hard to beat when we run our offense, then go back and play defense.”

Limoncelli knows that the game is a good lesson for the kids on what happens when you don’t run the offense correctly, like the first half, and what happens when you do, as they did in the second half.

“We will make sure they understand that and see the film and see the mistakes they made in the first half, and see how good they were in the second half, and you have to do that, it clicks with kids,” Limoncelli said. “They have to see it on film, not just hear me yelling all the time, that doesn’t work all the time these days.”

For Elmira this was a game where they just got outplayed.

“They were better than us tonight,” Johnson said. “They executed on both ends of the floor, we didn’t. We didn’t trust the process, have to fix our inconsistencies and that’s on me. They were tougher than we were tonight, they were better, they executed, they did the simple things and they deserved the victory. We’ll get better because of it, we’ll do our homework, we’ll go back to work.”

Along with his 14 points in the first half Daugherty added eight points in the fourth quarter as he and Jeremy Truax combined for 16 of the team’s 23 fourth-quarter points with Amauri Truax out with foul trouble.

“”I knew because Amauri was out, Jeremy was our main scorer, then it was me and I had to step up and play a bigger role in that fourth quarter to help us come out with the win,” Daugherty said.

Jeremy Truax had 20 points, 17 coming in the second half, as he was not going to let Elmira come back on Horseheads this time.

“We had a lead, then they started coming back,” Jeremy Truax said. “They started hitting the threes and I was like man, we can’t lose this game, we’ve got to win, that’s why I was like I’ve got to turn it up a little bit.”

For Limoncelli that’s what he expects from Jeremy in those moments.

“That’s his job,” Limoncelli said. “As long as things are clicking with all five guys on the floor and giving him some space when the ball gets back to him, that’s his job to make people pay, and he did.”

Fesetch had eight points for Horseheads, all coming in the second half, with two threes. Cook had six points, Amauri Truax and Durr had five points each and Chase Harmer, Mason Holloway and Andrew Potter all had two points.

Woodard had 14 points for Elmira, 11 in the second half, including seven in the third quarter.

Daniel had 13 points, with four threes, and Da’mon Jackson had 11 points in the game.

Kobe Thomas had six points, Louie McHenry had four points, Anthony Kitching had three points and Ben Rhode added two points.

While Horseheads moves to 7-3 on the season, Elmira is 4-8 and they know they need to do some work to make sectionals.

“It’s one of our long term goals,” Johnson said. “We have game-to-game goals, then we talk about our long term goals, but you have to do the little things before you can accomplish the big things. But, we know our ultimate goal is to get in and our back is against the wall. No matter who we play or what our record is, we always take it one game at a time, make sure our kids are prepared and tonight wasn’t our night.”
IN TOP PHOTO: Horseheads’ Jeremy Truax. . . PHOTOS BY BRIAN FEES

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