ONEONTA — For old-school NCAA tournament fans, it might have conjured up memories of Danny Ainge’s court-long dash for BYU in 1978 or UCLA’s Tyus Edney’s coast-to-coast heroics in 1995.
But even if you had nothing to compare it to, Oneonta High sophomore Albert Odero’s buzzer-beating layup had to be one of those hands-on-head moments for those who witnessed it.
Odero received an inbounds pass from Mike Wolstenholme near the right sideline and then covered 70 or so feet of hardwood in 5.3 seconds to lift the second-seeded Yellowjackets to a 54-52 Section Four Class B quarterfinal victory over No. 7 Waverly on Tuesday.
Odero’s soaring right-handed finish over Garrett Sutryk came as the final horn sounded.
“I was just like, ‘Go to the rim. Go to the rim,’” Odero said of a play that punctuated his game-high 22-point night. “It was amazing. I’m just glad we were able to keep our season alive, keep going strong and see if we can get to the (Broome County) Arena.”
This was no gimme for the Yellowjackets, not with standout junior guard Jordan Gutierrez and his 24-point scoring average absent from OHS’ lineup.
Gutierrez, a junior, was in Anthony C. Drago Gymnasium on Tuesday, but he was not in uniform. Oneonta coach Jerry Mackey said Gutierrez was not sick and that he hasn’t been disciplined by the school. Mackey said the reason Gutierrez didn’t play was a coach’s decision.
“Obviously, when you lose a 24-point-a-night scorer, there’s no way offensively you’re as good,” Mackey said. “We like to think the athletic program at the school in all sports has a bigger purpose than just putting the ball in the basket.”
Mackey added that Gutierrez’s status is unlikely to change when his 16-2 squad plays host to third-seeded Susquehanna Valley in a sectional semifinal Friday.
“I feel like the win would have been a lot easier because he contributes a lot of offense,” Odero said of not having Gutierrez. “The win would have been so much easier, but I’m just glad we got the win.”
SV (12-7) advanced with a 65-64 victory over No. 6 Dryden.
Fortunes for the Yellowjackets began to change Tuesday after Ryan McFarland and Dylan Perry scored early in the third quarter to give the Wolverines a 36-26 lead.
Mackey called timeout after Perry’s runner in the lane put the Wolverines up by 10 with 6:05 left in the quarter. Oneonta switched to a man-to-man defense, a move that triggered a 15-4 run to end the quarter.
Odero scored nine points in the spurt.
It started with an inside bucket following a pass from Paul Bischoff. Odero was fouled on the play and his free throw made it 36-29 with 5:48 to go in the quarter. Forty seconds later, Odero tipped in his own miss to make it a five-point deficit.
With 1:45 left in the quarter, Odero sealed off a Waverly defender on the back of the Wolverines’ 3-2 zone, received an entry pass on the left block before scoring to close Oneonta’ gap to 38-37.
Bischoff’s driving layup gave OHS the lead with 1:04 left and Odero scored inside off a pass from Bischoff to extend the Yellowjackets’ lead to 41-38 with 35 seconds to go in the quarter. At that point, Odero was 9-for-10 from the field.
“That’s just my teammates finding me and me just getting good shots and attacking,” Odero said. “It worked out well.”
Tim Sutton’s putback just before the quarter buzzer narrowed Waverly’s deficit to 41-40.
Oneonta’s man defense in the second half played a huge role. The Yellowjackets’ active feet kept Waverly from penetrating and OHS rebounded much better than the first half.
“We really did a good job of forcing them into some tough shots,” Mackey said. “The times in the third and fourth quarters when we made them dribble to their left hands, they almost never scored.”
Added Odero: “It was very aggressive. We forced some steals and we forced them left. Coach Mackey preached about forcing them left because none of them could go left. It was coaching and it was the players putting in the work.”
Brock Eichler’s three-pointer from the baseline extended OHS’ lead to 44-40 with 1:05 expired in the fourth quarter. Eichler then orchestrated what was perhaps the Yellowjackets’ best offensive sequence of the night. He drove along the left baseline before spotting a wide open George Foti on the opposite wing. The last of Foti’s three three-pointers gave the Jackets a 47-40 lead with 5:35 left.
Waverly (10-9) answered with a 9-2 run to tie the score at 49.
Peyton Miller capped the spurt on a driving layup with 2:10 left and then hit two free throws 26 seconds later that evened things at 49.
Bischoff’s driving layup with 1:15 remaining gave OHS a 51-49 lead.
After Waverly’s Alex Uhl missed a layup with 55 seconds left, Bischoff was called for traveling with 34 seconds to play.
The Wolverines had a chance to play for the last shot, but Miller attempted a three-pointer from the key with 20 seconds left. It missed and Wolstenholme secured the rebound. He was fouled with 15.8 seconds left.
Wolstenholme rattled in the first free throw to make it 52-49 before missing the second.
Uhl dribbled up the left side of the court before finding Perry right of the top of the circle. Perry, the winning pitcher in Waverly’s 6-4 win over Oneonta in last spring’s Section Four Class B baseball final, swished the three-pointer with 5.3 seconds to tie the score.
“The good part is when I called timeout, they came over and were focused,” Mackey said of his final timeout. “Mike’s our best inbounder, especially under pressure. We know how far each guy can get with his dribble. Albert’s our most explosive kid. It was good to see him finish off the glass and get rewarded.”
Hunter Bodine and Uhl finished with 14 points apiece for Waverly.
Foti had 11 points for the Yellowjackets.
Oneonta 54, Waverly 52
SECTION FOUR CLASS B
7-WAVERLY (10-9): Hunter Bodine 5-16 2-3 14, Ryan McFarland 1-5 0-0 2, Colton Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Peyton Miller 2-5 2-2 7, Dylan Perry 4-11 2-2 11, Garrett Sutryk 0-1 0-2 0, Tim Sutton 2-6 0-0 4, Alex Uhl 5-13 2-2 14, Alex Volpe 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19-59 8-15 52.
2-ONEONTA (16-2): Albert Odero 10-16 2-3 22, Paul Bischoff 2-7 2-3 6, George Foti 4-9 0-0 11, Mike Wolstenholme 0-1 1-2 1, Brock Eichler 2-5 0-2 5, Ben Southern 1-1 0-0 2, Kevin Smith 1-1 2-4 4, Skylar Thompson 1-2 0-0 3. TOTALS: 21-42 7-14 54.
Waverly 17 15 8 12 – 52
Oneonta 18 8 15 13 – 54
Three-point field goals: W 6 (P. Miller, Bodine 2, Uhl 2, Perry); O 5 (Foti 3, Eichler, Thompson).
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.