Sports Editor’s Playbook, Wednesday, Dec. 15

Patrick Newell

– Bob Branham has spent a large portion of his professional career as a teacher of physical education and a coach at Norwich. Branham will receive a much-deserved honor this Friday night before the varsity girls game against Susquehanna Valley when the 2010-2011 program is dedicated in his honor.
Branham guided Norwich’s girls to a Section IV title in 2006, his final season as a varsity basketball coach. Prior to that, Branham coached for several years on the lower levels of Norwich basketball – first with the boys, and later the girls. He always turned out fundamentally sound players who, under Branham’s guidance, were well prepared for the next level of basketball.

– “It was a great high school basketball game,” said Unatego coach Greg Bonczkowski Wednesday morning. “Bonz” had about 12 hours to reflect on the events of Tuesday night when his club dropped a 56-54 overtime final at Bainbridge-Guilford.
It was one of the all-time great comeback wins in my years of reporting as B-G made up a 16-point deficit in less than five minutes to force overtime, then outlasted the Spartans in a back-and-forth overtime period. “We played extremely well for a large portion of the game,” said Bonczkowski, who is a high school teacher at Norwich. “In the fourth quarter, they just turned it up a notch and started clicking.”
It was a seldom-used reserve, Amber DeGroat, who came off the bench to hit an innocent looking jumper to trim two points off Unatego’s 40-24 lead. From there, B-G’s furious rally was fueled by shotmaking not seen the first 27 minutes, tenacious offensive rebounding, and Unatego’s struggles at the foul line. The Spartans went 20-for-42 for the game from the charity stripe, but in the process of getting those foul shots, two B-G starters ultimately fouled out and were not available for any of the overtime period.
B-G had all of the momentum early in the OT taking a four-point lead. Unatego was able to tie the game up at 51-51, and after the Bobcats made 3-of-4 from the foul line, Sarah Mannina tied the game for Unatego one more time canning a clutch three-pointer with less than a minute to play. The Bobcats had the ball for a chance to take the lead for good, and made good on a short-range shot for the margin of victory.
“The bottom line is we played well enough to win a close gme on the road in a difficult place to play,” Bonczkowski said, who mentioned his team’s difficulties at the foul line and defensive rebounding. “We still had opportunities to come away with the victory, they just made one more play than we did at a crucial time in the game. I was very pleased with my team’s effort and intensity throughout the game. … If we play this way for the rest of the season, we’ll have a chance to be very competitive.”

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