WHITESBORO, NY — The junior varsity game between Whitesboro and Auburn went right down to the wire, with the Warriors picking up a 2-point victory with just seconds remaining.
You would have thought that much drama would be enough for the crowd that packed into the gym at Whitesboro High School on Friday. As it turned out, that was just the appetizer to a main course that was much more exciting.
Senior Tommy Morreale threw down a school record 47 points, bringing his career total to 1,023 points. The Warriors needed every single one of them to pull out a 90-86 double overtime victory over the Maroons. Kaleb Cook, a 1,000 point scorer for the Maroons, added 44 in a losing effort for Auburn.
“This is unreal,” Morreale said. “It’s one of the better moments of my life…it’s just unbelievable.”
“I’m very glad he got it tonight,” head coach Garrett Herthum said of his senior, who only sat once in all six quarters. “Hopefully, it gets a weight off of his shoulders. He’s all about team first.”
Unfortunately, neither Morreale nor the rest of the Warriors got off to the best start from the opening tip. The shorter, speedier Maroons were able to keep Whitesboro off the scoreboard for the first four minutes of the quarter. In that time, the Maroons managed to jump out to a 10-0 lead, but the Warriors continued to battle right back, scoring the next eight to bring them to within two. Of course, what also helped were four big fouls near the end of the quarter. The seven-of-eight performance from the free throw line in the first quarter proved to be the difference in the waning seconds, putting Whitesboro out to a 15-14 lead at the first buzzer.
The second quarter went almost as slowly as the first for the Warriors, as the Maroons grabbed the first four points of the second quarter as well. However, turnovers would play a big part in the Auburn offense, as the speedier Maroons were able to force them from all over the gym to keep Whitesboro to just a 4-0 run of their own.
“We had some lousy turnovers tonight,” Whitesboro senior Avery Cook said, “We didn’t get off to the fastest start, but we just held our ground.”
Unfortunately for the Warriors, that was about the time that Auburn’s own 1,000 point scorer, senior Kaleb Cook, got hot, scoring eight of the team’s 15 points in the second, mostly from the perimeter, to keep the pace. Fortunately, Morreale was more than up to the challenge, as he poured in eight of his own, mostly from inside the paint. Morreale and Cook would duel right up to the halftime buzzer, both exchanging two-point plays to keep the score even at 30 going into the locker room.
Most of the third quarter was a tight affair, with neither team able to get much more than a four-point lead. However, a 10-2 run into an early Whitesboro timeout would finally allow the Maroons some breathing room with an eight-point lead. Point number 1000 would come soon after the time out, as Morreale would bank a shot into the basket on a layup. After the quarter, Morreale would be honored with a banner and a photo-op with his entire team.
“It was awesome,” Cook said. “[Tommy’s] a great kid…he deserves this.”
“[1000 points is] great and all,” Morreale said of his accomplishment, “but I couldn’t have done it without my team.”
The accomplishment now done, the Warriors got to work, and managed to chip away at the lead for the rest of the quarter. A three-point play by junior Zach Britt with just half a second left allowed the Warriors to get within three just as the buzzer went off.
That three-point lead would be as close as the Warriors would get for a while in the fourth quarter. Thanks to tough play on both sides and Cook shooting the lights out for Auburn, the Maroons were able to extend their lead to five late in regulation. However, thanks to the Warriors’ big three of Avery Cook, Morreale and Britt, Whitesboro was able to cut the lead to three with just under a minute left in regulation.
That was when an unlikely hero came to the forefront. After a questionable backcourt violation call that had everyone on their feet, senior Collin McAndrew came up big for the Warriors. His three pointer with just six seconds remaining tied up the game at 63. It would be the only basket the senior would have on the day, but it was the biggest, as Auburn could not answer before the buzzer sounded for overtime.
“This game just showed how our team reacted to adversity,” Morreale said. “We can go a long way if we played the way we did tonight.”
In the overtime periods, it would be Cook vs. Cook and Morreale for most of the way. It would be Auburn’s Cook that would start off the festivities, draining a big three-pointer to give the Maroons an early lead. However, it would be Cook and Morreale that would keep the Maroons within striking distance, draining two clutch free throws (one each) to tie it up yet again. However, the Auburn senior would not give up that easily, draining two big free throws himself to even the score up at 70 and send it into another overtime.
From there, foul trouble for the Maroons would allow the Warriors to pull away, never relinquishing the lead from the first minute of the second overtime period. Cook would keep the Maroons in it to the very end, hitting a huge three-pointer with under 30 seconds left to put Auburn within one point. Unfortunately, that would be as close as the Maroons would get, as the Warriors finally wore down the Maroons with free throws to finally put them away.
Despite the loss, Auburn head coach Jim Marsh was proud of the fight his Maroons put up, especially after a nine point loss to the same Whitesboro team just one month ago.
“The kids played their butts off, but things happen,” Marsh said. “I thought we played good enough to win. To come out here to Whitesboro and play that tough…it’s amazing how far we’ve come. Hopefully we can keep getting better and hopefully we can see what we can do in sectionals.”
“This was a big Class A win for us tonight,” Morreale said about the win, which comes off the heels of a close loss to RFA on Wednesday. “This gives us confidence, and I believe we can keep it going.”
Herthum was happy with the win, but was more happy with the way his team kept themselves in the game.
“I thought our team played good enough to win,” Herthum said. “It was never out of reach for us. I just told them [during the first overtime break] there’s someone out there that gave you four extra minutes to show how hard you work in practice. We knew it was going to be a battle tonight, and hopefully we can use the momentum going forward.”
Whitesboro Warriors 90, Auburn Maroons 84 (2OT)
Warriors 15 15 18 15 7 20 90
Maroons 14 16 21 12 7 14 84
Whitesboro Warriors (90)
Joey Panuccio 1 1-4 3, Zach Britt 5 4-6 14, Collin McAndrew 1 0-0 3, Tommy Morreale 15 15-18 47, Nick Sardina 0 1-2 1, Avery Cook 7 8-14 22. Totals: 29 28-44 90.
Auburn Maroons (84)
Jay Baranick 3 0-0 8, Shaheed Beal 8 4-6 20, Kaleb Cook 15 10-13 44, Troy Churney 2 0-3 4, Shareef Edwards 2 0-2 4, Nick Blowers 2 0-0 4. Totals: 32 14-24 84.
Halftime: Whitesboro 30, Auburn 30.
Three-Point Field Goals: Auburn 6 (Cook 4, Baranick 2), Whitesboro 3 (Morreale 2, McAndrew).
JV Game: Whitesboro 60, Auburn 58.