OTEGO – If you were in Unatego’s packed gymnasium Friday night, you had to know.
Even has the hosts built a 14-point lead in the opening half, you had to know.
Even has the Spartans maintained a 12-point lead with 6 ½ minutes left, you had to know.
“They always come back,” Unatego junior Tanner Winchester said after scoring a game-high 26 points in Unatego’s 62-60 victory over Sidney in a Midstate Athletic Conference boys basketball semifinal. “It’s always close between us. Even if you go up by 10, you know they’re going to punch you back.”
In a guard-oriented game between teams that had no players taller than 6-foot-3, Winchester and backcourt mate Kellen Komenda proved to be too much for the Warriors.
Komenda hit four threes en route to 23 points.
“We shot it very well from three-point range,” first-year Unatego coach Cal Locke said of his team’s 7-for-13 accuracy from behind the arc. “By far, that’s the best percentage we’ve shot this year. Sidney is a quality team and extremely well coached, and they make it difficult to get those open looks. I did think we moved the ball well to get some open shots.”
Top-seeded Unatego (11-6) will play third-seeded Unadilla Valley (13-4) – a 65-57 winner over Greene in the other semifinal – in the MAC final Feb. 15 at Oneonta State. The Spartans are looking for their third straight league championship – the first two coming in victories over Sidney, including a 53-50 triumph last year.
When Winchester drove left and hit an off-balance shot off glass with 6:45 to go, the Spartans had a 47-35 lead.
Winchester also started the fourth quarter with a spinning drive in the lane.
“When you hit some shots, they really come out and jump, so you can just get to the rim easily and hopefully draw a foul,” said Winchester, whose night included an 11-for-15 performance from the line.