With much more on the line, the Homer Central boys’ basketball team was not going to let Marcellus off the hook a second time.
The Trojans led 28-18 at Marcellus back on Dec.12, but let the Mustangs come back in the second half for a 56-53 OHSL Liberty Division victory.
Friday night, fifth-seeded Homer was up 27-18, but held the No. 12 Mustangs to just seven third-quarter points while pulling away to a 49-25 advantage and cruising to a 70-42 first-round Section 3 Class B tournament victory.
The Trojans (15-2 overall) will host 13th seed Oneida Tuesday at 7 p.m. in he quarterfinals after the Indians upset fourth seed Holland Patent 62-53 Friday night. The Mustangs close out their season at 9-12.
The seedings held up in the rest of Friday night’s Class B contests, the winners including second-seeded Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, No. 3 Chittenango, No. 6 Lowville, seventh-seeded General Brown and No. 8 Cazenovia. Top-seeded Westhill was to host No. 16 Skaneateles this afternoon.
Stephen Walter continues to dominate in the paint for Homer, the senior with a double-double that included 19 points and double-digit rebounds, the exact number not available. Tucker O’Donnell added a solid 12 points for the winners.
“It felt good to get a little revenge,” O’Donnell said. “They are a good team, but they have been up and down like we have. We were the better team tonight.
“In the first game our third quarter was not our best quarter. We knew we had to change that this time around. I put a couple in the hole tonight, really everybody put one in the hole tonight. It was something special and it was one of our best games of the year.”
“It’s been nice,” Walter said. “The guys are finding me down low and I’m starting to hit my shots. I haven’t won sleeves under my jersey the last two games and the guys are busting on me. They say it’s made me a different player. We definitely wanted the win tonight. It’s survive and advance in the playoffs. It was a revenge game for us.”
Walter scored 10 straight first-quarter points to turn a 6-2 Homer deficit into a 12-6 advantage as the hosts took the lead for good. Walter scored his 11th and 12th points of the quarter to give Homer the 16-9 lead after the first eight minutes.
“We wanted to find Stephen early,” Homer coach Sean Malone said. “We thought they might come out in their 1-3-1 like they did the first game during their second-half comeback, but they stuck with their man-to-man. We had a good mismatch with Stephen down low and we kept getting him touches. He finished well early in the game and that was good. He carried us in the first quarter and forced them out of their man.”
Justin Wainwright drove to the basket to start the Trojan scoring in the second quarter before adding a jumper and free throw to put the home team ahead 26-14 with 2:30 left in the quarter. Homer went into halftime up 27-18.
In the third quarter, Casey Hayes got a couple of early buckets and O’Donnell heated up. Marcellus would score once after every two or three Homer baskets. O’Donnell had two lay-ups and a 3-pointer to go with a deuce and trey from Bryant Quinlan. Walter netted his final six points of the game as Homer opened to a 49-25 cushion.
“We talked about it at halftime that we really weren’t as aggressive as we could have been,” Malone said. “Playing man-to-man is a little different to us because we’ve played zone most of the year. The guys are just a little timid at the start of the game because they don’t want to pick up fouls. The officials let things go a bit and that was nice. We were happy that we held them to 18 points in the first half.”
With Malone going to the bench in the fourth quarter, a good number of Trojans got involved in the scoring. Malik Redding and Ryan Angell buried 3-pointers, Andrew Hage added four points and Lannis Dodge netted six points. All drew big cheers from the Trojan bench and the crowd, but the biggest roar came in the final minute of the game when senior Kyle Hess stepped on the court for the first time since sustaining a severe ankle injury in the opening minute of a Jan. 9 home game against Westhill.
Many, including Hess, did not believe he would be back this season. While he was told to just jog up and down the court as he continues to get his game legs back, it meant a lot to all involved to see him on the floor.
“It was good,” Malone said. “He wishes he could be back at full strength, but he’s not there yet. Our JV coach Rex (Ryan) said ‘Do you want to give Kyle a minute?’ I said ‘Yup.’ Kyle was a little flustered as first. It was nice to see everyone cheer for him. I’m happy one of my coaches caught it.”
“It’s awesome,” Walter said. “Nobody though (Hess) was coming back. He loves the game and we all love him on the team. Hopefully he can get some more minutes if we make a run here.”
“It felt good,” Hess said. “I’m excited to be back. I didn’t think I would be back, but I’m happy to be back.”
Marcellus got 12 points from Michael Jarvi while Connor Wixson netted 10 points.