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BOYS BASKETBALL

Down all of regulation, Moravia boys basketball stuns Union Springs in overtime

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Moravia Union Springs 1.JPG

Union Springs' Jose Reyes controls a loose ball against Moravia's Drew Nye during boys basketball at Union Springs High School.

UNION SPRINGS — A week after defending its home court, Moravia boys basketball twisted the knife a little deeper into county rival Union Springs. 

The Blue Devils, despite trailing for 3 1/2 quarters, were able to force overtime and eventually beat the Wolves 54-53 in overtime on Wednesday at Union Springs High School. 

Moravia's win defied all conventional wisdom. Save for a few moments in the first quarter after hitting a free throw to open the game's scoring, the Blue Devils trailed for the entirety of regulation. 

There was also the 19-point deficit toward the end of the first half, and the eight-point deficit with less than two minutes remaining.

At the free-throw line, Moravia finished only 5-for-19. 

Yet somehow, some way, the Blue Devils walked off the court with arms raised high, while the Wolves set off to the locker room postgame in disbelief. 

"It goes back to making one play at a time offensively and defensively. You're not gonna make up a deficit like that in one possession," Moravia coach Todd Mulvaney said. "A lot of what we faced in the first half was getting our guys into the flow of the game, and they needed to pick their chins up. 

"You can't go there (accepting defeat). If you do, it's just submitting and we weren't willing to do that. We didn't come here to play on this stage in a great atmosphere and lay down."

After the teams battled for four quarters last Monday in Moravia, Wednesday's rematch had the look of a laugher early on. Moravia didn't score its first basket until there were 48 seconds left in the opening quarter. 

By then, Union Springs had already built a 12-1 lead, thanks to 3s from Jose Reyes, Hunter Martin and Andrew Salls. 

At halftime, the Blue Devils had only 11 points. 

Moravia continued to chip away but still trailed by 12 entering the fourth quarter. The situation looked particularly dire with two minutes to go when Martin hit a 3 then followed with a pair of free throws to put Union Springs in front by eight. 

Then the worst case scenario happened for the Wolves. Reyes, the team's point guard and most reliable ball handler, fouled out with 1:56 to go. Twenty-nine seconds later Salls, another starter, also picked up his fifth infraction. 

"That changed our strategy tremendously," Mulvaney said. "We were able to utilize our strengths, our quickness and our pressure. That last minute, that's where we won the game. We weren't in the lead the entire game, but if you have an opportunity, you have to take advantage."

That opened the door for Moravia. The Blue Devils suffocated the Wolves with a full-court press, which led to turnovers and points. 

The Blue Devils had an inbounds play with 18 seconds left, down by two. The ball found its way to freshman Joe Baylor, and he banked a shot off rim to tie it and force overtime. 

In the OT, Aiden Kelly and Abram Wasileski both hit 3s, and that was enough of a buffer for the Blue Devils to stun their county rivals. Both finished the game with 16 points, while Baylor added 10. 

Martin posted a game-high 20 for the Wolves. Reyes added 16 and Damon Brown — who had a key block in the waning possessions that kept Union Springs ahead briefly — scored 12.

For Union Springs, the loss is a sickening lesson about foul trouble. As Wolves coach Dan Cerro pointed out, both Reyes and Martin had three fouls in the first half, but he didn't feel comfortable removing either from the game as he wanted to build a more comfortable lead. 

Cerro went as far as to switch his lineup in the first half based on which team had possession. 

"(Reyes) rights a lot of wrongs for us, and he's been a great player in our area for four years now. If he's in the game, he's just breaking the press and it's a different game," Cerro said. "That's basketball sometimes. I wanted to get the score up to 18 or 20 points so maybe in the second half we could play a little zone. 

"We let them linger. You could say the what-ifs, but that's why I play those guys with fouls, because I have to."

On the bright side for Union Springs, while each ended with losses, the Wolves proved they can hang with Class C section powers like Moravia and Newfield. 

Now it becomes a matter of finishing the job. 

"It's kind of an open field this year," Cerro said. "For me, knowing we're gonna have a chance from seeing what we're capable of ... we kinda dominated this game for 28 minutes. We've had an awkward couple weeks here, but we're right there. We've been there with everyone that matters. We'll play anyone on their floor and make it a challenge."

Sports reporter Justin Ritzel can be reached at 282-2257 or at justin.ritzel@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRitz.

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Sports Reporter

Justin Ritzel is a sports reporter for The Citizen. Justin has been covering high school sports and minor league baseball in Cayuga County since 2015.

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