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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
JOHNSON CITY — Big threes by the team’s leaders, and some timely defense helped the Horseheads girls’ basketball team win a second straight STAC title on Friday night, 44-43 over Chenango Forks.

Trailing by six in the fourth quarter, Megan Wolf hit a big three to tie the game with 1:29 left and Sophia Bonnell hit a go-head three to put the Blue Raiders up one with 26 left and that proved to be the game winner.

“I guess the word that comes to me is grit and gutsy,” Horseheads coach Andy Scott said of the team’s play. “It was really easy when they hit the three to go up four and then six all of a sudden, it was really easy to like pack up the bags. Obviously Wolf and Bonnell both hit those shots to tie things up and gave us a little bit of confidence back.”

Both Wolf and Bonnell had 11 in the game, and both had almost, or more than, half of those points in the final minutes of the game.

Wolf had five fourth-quarter points and Bonnell hit two fourth-quarter threes, one to get the Blue Raiders within three and one to put them ahead.

“Bottom line, big-time players are going to make big-time plays,” Scott said. “She’s (Bonnell) done it for us for two straight years. The last three minutes was just gritty. On the defensive end Wolfe was guarding (Maggie) Warpus and was just awesome. She dove on the floor like a wild woman, that’s just who she is. She is hungry. I wouldn’t pick anyone else to play defense in a sectional. She’s awesome. Defense has been our key, we haven’t given up more than 45 in a month and I think today we gave up about that. It was really good. If you don’t play well on offense, defense will keep you in it.”

For Bonnell on the game winner she got a good screen and she knew she had to get off a good shot.

“I knew we had to get at least a three, or even a two to tie it, but I knew we had to get a shot to even get us close to winning, which we did,” Bonnell said. “We got it back and it was a good team win. It was a great screen by Jordyn (Gross) to get me open and I just had a quick trigger and it went in.”

After Horseheads took the lead, Forks had a chance to tie, or take the lead, as they got to the line, but they missed both free throws.

Horseheads got the ball back but a five-second call gave Forks new life as they got another chance with 12 seconds left. But, again the Blue Raiders defense was up to the task.

“We are up by a point, nothing we can really do (about the five-second call),” Scott said. “You can complain about it, or you can do something about it. You have to go down and play hard. WE knew the ball was going to Warpus. I mean I would make sure that happens. We did a great job twice after two of their time outs holding it together and boxing out and doing our job. Credit to the girls because they just don’t give up even in adverse situations like that. This game was good because it prepares us for the second season, so it was a huge win and momentum boost for us.”

The Blue Raiders forced a missed shot, but Forks got the offensive rebound and had one more chance with 1.7 seconds left, but again the Horseheads defense stepped up.

“It kind of slowed us down (the five-second call),” Bonnell said. “But, we knew we needed to come back and get it back on defense. We were still up by a point, but it was still an intense game. We still had to get right back on defense and flip it. It’s kind of like, it’s ok, get the next one kinda of play.”

It was a slow start for both teams as Horseheads led 8-7 after one quarter, but the Blue Raiders eight points off the bench from Maddie Ribble in the second quarter as they led 26-22 at the half.

Forks came back and held Horseheads to five third-quarter points and the game was tied entering the final eight minutes, when Wolf and Bonnell combined for 11 points and Emma Kamas hit two big free throws for Horseheads.

“We are definitely a second-half kind of team,” Bonnell said. “Even though the third quarter was kind of slow we knew we had to pick it up in the fourth and we had no doubt we were going to win this game, so we just came in with a lot of intensity.”

Ribble led Horseheads with 14 off the bench and Bonnell and Wolf had 11, while Kamas had five and Gross had three points.

Warpus led Forks with 13 and Alyssa Specchio had 10.

For Horseheads all but three of their field goals came on threes. Ribble had three, Bonnell had three, Wolf had two and Kamas had one.

For Scott he knows that they’d like to have had more inside scoring, but it was tough against Forks and the three carried them on Friday night.

“We tried to go inside a couple times,” Scott said. “They are long in there. We got a couple good looks they just didn’t fall this time. We like to try and attack the rim more, but with Warpus and the big girl in there we weren’t really doing that and drawing fouls. I thought we did a pretty good job of that in the first half, but not so much in the second half, because that’s their adjustment. It does get frustrating to live and die by it (the three) sometimes, but we won with it today.”

For Horseheads it’s now onto sectionals, where they are the top seed in Class AA where they will host No. 4 Binghamton on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.

“It definitely gives us more momentum,” Bonnell said. “We are coming off a big win streak in the regular season, so coming into sectionals we have a lot of confidence.”

The Blue Raiders have won 14 straight games as they head into sectionals with a 16-4 record on the year.

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