For just the seventh time ever the Homer Central boys’ basketball team has a season with 16 or more wins, but it wasn’t easy Tuesday night.
The fifth-seeded Trojans trailed 13th seed Oneida 30-28 at halftime, then used a tough defensive effort in the second half to pull out the 56-46 Section 3 Class B quarterfinal round victory. It was the seventh straight win for the Trojans and the 10th in their last 12 games.
Homer (16-5 overall) will face top seed Westhill (18-4) Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena after the Warriors routed eighth seed Cazenovia 77-55. The other semifinal game takes place Saturday at 8:15 p.m. as second-seeded Vernon-Vernona-Sherrill takes on No. 3 Chittenango (16-5), the third team along with Homer and Westhill from the OHSL Liberty American Division. V-V-S dumped seventh seed General Brown 82-62 Tuesday while Chittenango was a 72-47 winner over sixth seed Lowville.
The last time the Trojans reached the sectional semifinals was the 1979-80 season, when Homer went 19-2. Mexico won that game after Homer beat them twice during the regular season.
Homer trailed the whole first quarter and much of the second as Alexander Vaccaro and John Jones combined for 23 points, including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line by Jones.
The Trojans stayed close as senior Justin Wainwright was on fire with 16 first half points, 10 in the first quarter where Homer trailed 16-13. His backcourt mate Casey Hayes added six big first half points.
“We just kept trying to move the ball and I was in attack mode from the start,” Wainwright said. “Hayes did his job, our bigs did their job and things came together real nice.”
“Justin certainly was in attack mode in the first half,” Homer coach Sean Malone said. “He got to the rim just about any time he wanted to. Many times, if he did miss, he got the rebound. He’s starting to figure it out. Early in the season he was settling for a couple of threes and a couple of long twos. We had a conversation about him attacking the basket and a switch flipped on. He was big for us.”
Stephen Walter tied the game for Homer to start the third quarter and Wainwright nailed a jumper for a 32-30 led. Jones countered with two buckets of his own to put Oneida (9-13) in front 34-32.
The Trojans closed out the quarter with an 11-2 run to enjoy a 43-36 lead through three quarters. Hayes began the run with a drive to the rim. Walter got open in the paint and Tucker O’Donnell delivered a 3-pointer for a 39-34 Trojan lead with 3:38 left in the quarter. Walter scored twice more to end the quarter. Homer netted 15 points in the third quarter while holding Oneida to six points to turn the tide.
Walter opened the fourth quarter with an offensive putback and he added two free throws, but O’Donnell nailed his second 3-pointer to give Homer a double-digit 50-39 advantage with 5:36 remaining. The Trojans kept control to remainder of the game.
Wainwright scored 18 points on the night to lead all scorers. Walter scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to help seal the win. Hayes chipped in with 12 points for the Trojans.
“When one person is hot, we try to get the ball to them,” Wainwright said. “I was the guy in the first half. They came out to stop me in the second half so we simply went to the next guy.”
“It’s been the trend for Stephen who has really been carrying the load with Q (Bryant Quinlan) not scoring,” Malone said. “Q is getting looks, but the ball just is not falling for him right now.
“It was a complete defensive effort in the second half. We had a little more life, a little more energy. We stepped up in the second half.”
“We only scored 16 points in the second half,” Oneida coach Jeff Didio said. “Give credit to Homer’s zone that they played extremely well and aggressive. It was tough getting shots off, It’s kinda been the tale of our season all year long. We get into a little lull where we don’t score and that’s what’s hurt us. Homer is a very good team. They have a nice presence all around inside and out. I wish them the best of luck.”
Jones finished the game with 16 points to lead Oneida. Vaccaro added 14 points.