January 5, 2011
Great CHS escape
Late Hughes 3-pointer edges Falcons as Coach Lowie sets school win mark
SYRACUSE — The Cortland High boys’ basketball team led only twice in the 32 minutes of Tuesday’s game against host Fowler.
Brian Hughes made sure that the second time was for good, and helped Coach Mick Lowie make some history in the process.
The 6-3 sophomore forward drained a 3-pointer from the left corner with just under five seconds left as the Purple Tigers shaded the Falcons 50-49 to improve to 4-0 in OHSL Freedom National Division play and 5-0 overall.
It was the 247th win as CHS head coach for Lowie, now five games into his 22nd season. That moved him one victory ahead of Jack Hannon, who held the position for 22 seasons in all, from 1951 through 1969 and again from 1973-77.
Lowie is now 247-202 (.550) for his career at his alma mater, while Hannon finished 246-182 (.574).
Lowie kept the impending milestone a secret for the most part, and among those not informed were team members and coaching staff.
“First of all, I’m glad he didn’t tell us,” said Hughes, who started in place of senior Jonathan Prior (who did see a good deal of playing time coming back from a tweaked knee) and finished with eight points. “It would have put a lot more pressure on us. I hope he’ll remember me forever for it. It’s awesome.”
“Number one, it shows that I’ve been around along time,” Lowie said of his accomplishment, having started in the 1983-84 for the first of three seasons and then coming back to coach from 1992 up to the present. “I’m proud of that. I know where we started, and you could count the number of winning seasons in the previous 15 years on one hand. We knew we had to work hard to get respectable, then good, and then to the point where people worry about us. The first seven years we played in a combined A-AA league, and have wound up in a league with state champions, runners-up and Final Four teams.
“I’m proud of that, and am thankful to have great athletes and coaches to work with. We’ve kept consistent coaching staff, who all work our tails off for the system,” he added. “And we’re all Cortland High grads, myself, (varsity assistants) Rick Miller and Jeremy Milligan, (JV head coach) Yale Hughes, (JV assistants) Tom Neugebauer and Tim Guido. I’m also glad that my wife (Joan), son (Mike) and John Pilato (former CHS multi-sport coach) were here to see it.”
AS FOR THE GAME itself, it didn’t look for the most part like the large Cortland contingent on hand was going to head back home happy as their team faced its first real obstacle of the season after four easy victories. The Falcons (now 2-2 in the OHSL Freedom National and 3-3 overall) scored the first seven points of the game and seven of the first nine to establish control early.
CHS cut the deficit to 9-7 but wound up trailing 13-7 after the first quarter, and trailed by one twice in the second 13-12 — as junior point guard Qwuhail Barlow scored the first five points of the stanza en route to a team-high 19 points — and 15-14. The visitors were still behind 24-20 at intermission despite holding its hosts scoreless for the first 3:02 of the quarter.
Larry Rivers, Fowler’s 6-4 senior forward, had 14 points in the first half en route to a game-high 22, while senior guard Dieudonne Pierre had eight of his 13 points in the first 16 minutes.
“We hadn’t been tested, but tonight we were tested the whole game,” Lowie said. “I’d hate to see what would have happened with (Malcolm) Jones in there,” referring to the Falcons’ 6-2 guard-forward and top player, out for the season with a foot injury.
“My guys responded pretty well for having to make up for Malcolm,” Fowler coach Greg Sweeney said. “They all love him, and did a great job of trying to win for him. You can’t replace him, but I told everyone if they could each get two more of something — baskets, rebounds, defensive stops — we’d be in business.”
That strategy seemed to be working, as the hosts moved to a 41-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Cortland, however, dug deep and scored 11 of the first 13 points of the third to forge a 43-43 tie with 5:03 left, the tying points on a layup by junior center Brandon Babcock. A free throw by senior forward Justin Hogan with 4:21 left gave the Purple Tigers their first lead at 44-43, but baskets by junior forward Floyd Hartford and Rivers gave the hosts a 47-44 edge with 2:15 remaining. Both teams then went cold until Barlow knocked down a trey with :47.3 left to tie the game at 47-47 and bring the visiting crowd to life.
AFTER THE FALCONS missed an inside shot with 30 seconds left, Lowie called a timeout with the plan to run the clock down to eight seconds with a four-corners offense, call another timeout and set up an inbounds play.
That plan was dashed when Fowler junior forward Wilquan Burke stole a pass near midcourt and drove in to score and give his team a 49-47 lead with 13.5 seconds left, followed by another CHS timeout, then a timeout by Sweeney after seeing the visitors’ inbounds play develop. “We told Qwuhail to bring the ball down the floor and find someone with an open shot,” Lowie said. “We expected them to go full-court man-to-man, which they did.”
“We didn’t have a set play,” Hughes said. “If Qwuhail wasn’t able to drive the lane, he would dish it to someone to shoot a three. My man went to double-team him, and I was open. It felt pretty good as I let it go.”
The shot found nothing but net, Fowler then losing a couple of seconds before finally calling a timeout with 2.2 seconds showing. A last desperation heave by Pierre from halfcourt bounced high off the glass and harmlessly down to the floor as the buzzer sounded to end what Cortland fans — and, at the time, players and coaches — thought was just another league win.
“Coach told us afterwards in the locker room,” Hughes said. “This was our toughest game yet, and it’s good that we were able to stay unbeaten.”
“Fowler is probably a more athletic team than we are,” Lowie said. “The kids struggled in this one, but didn’t hang their heads and fought back.”
Junior center Brandon Babcock pulled down 11 rebounds to help Cortland to a 38-27 advantage in that department and complement the 10 points he scored. Barlow and Hogan collected six boards apiece and also had three steals each, sophomore forward Josh Gutchess had five rebounds and Prior had a team-high four assists.Hartford joined Rivers and Pierre in double figures with 10 points for Fowler with other individual stats unavailable. The Falcons missed the only free throw they took in the game, while Cortland was 3-for-10 from the line.
CORTLAND JVs improved to 4-1 with a 63-51 win as Kody Cranston led the way with 22 points, Isaiah Prior added 19 and Andrew Potter had 10. The winners led 33-21 at halftime after outscoring their hosts 18-9 in the second quarter. Imere Simmons led Fowler with 14 points and John White added 10.
Both Cortland teams visit Chittenango Friday, the JVs getting things started with a 5:30 p.m. tip-off.
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