ONEONTA _ ‘Twas the smallest of Oneonta High’s starters who made the biggest impact Wednesday night.Senior guard Hayley Dower hit five three-pointers and scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Yellowjackets to a 50-34 Southern Tier Athletic Conference semifinal victory over Maine-Endwell.
On a night Spartans shooters misfired on all 20 of their three-point attempts, Dower couldn’t seem to miss from long range before a large turnout at Drago Gymnasium.
“Hayley came up huge,” said backcourt mate Mariah Ruff, who finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “She was hitting shots all over. She was handling the ball, handling pressure and she was automatic. You passed her the ball and you knew it was going in.”
The East Division champion Yellowjackets (16-1) will now move on to their third straight STAC final. They’ll oppose West Division winner Horseheads at noon Sunday at Binghamton University’s Events Center. The Blue Raiders defeated Owego, 62-41, in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
“Horseheads starts five kid and they’re all getting college looks,” OHS coach Matt Miller said. “They’re all 5-foot-11 athletes. They’re long and they can shoot.”
The past two seasons, OHS has earned narrow wins over Horseheads to advance to the STAC final. Both times, the Yellowjackets went on to lose to Binghamton _ by 33 points in 2011 and by one point last season.
“We’ve been there two years in a row and we haven’t won one yet, so we’re looking forward to it,” Ruff said of winning the program’s first STAC title since a 42-34 win over Seton Catholic Central in 2009.
Dower’s biggest contribution came in the game’s opening 10 minutes. If not for her sharp-shooting, the Yellowjackets could have faced an 18-2 deficit midway through the second quarter.
The 5-foot-4 Dower made four threes early on in scoring 12 of Oneonta’s first 14 points.