January 6, 2010


Purple Tigers stay perfect

Rally from early deficit wins clash of unbeatens


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Christine Gutchess (12) of Cortland High attempts to steal the ball from Leanne Ockenden of CBA Tuesday night at Shafer Gym. CHS stayed unbeaten with a 54-50 victory.

Staff Writer

The combination of a two-week absence from game competition and a formidable opponent posed the greatest threat yet to the Cortland High girls’ basketball team’s undefeated record Tuesday night.
When it was all said and done, however, the Purple Tigers, who trailed by as much as 10 points early in the second quarter, stepped it up for a 54-50 win over Syracuse CBA at Shafer Gym to improve to 6-0 in the OHSL Freedom Division and 7-0 overall.
The Brothers, meanwhile, suffered their first loss in five games — all against league opponents —this season. It looked early on like the visitors, who left the premises after the game before their coach, John Niland, could be reached for comment, might be the ones to stay perfect, as they moved from a 6-6 tie to an 18-8 lead early in the second quarter. That was their biggest lead, however, and a change in strategy changed the game for the hosts.
“We started to press them at the end of the first quarter, switching between man-to-man and zone, and that caught them off guard and changed the pace, the whole complexion, of the game,” Purple Tigers coach Dick Penoyer said. “Down by 10, we needed to do something, and that got us some easy baskets. We knew it was going to be a good game, a good four quarters of basketball, and I guess maybe we did a little better job of playing those four quarters.”
One problem CHS had early in was the fact that senior forward Courtney Tennant got into early foul trouble, whistled twice in the first minute and a half and sitting out the rest of the first quarter. She came back in the second quarter and scored eight of the 18 points the winners scored in that stanza. It was five points from sophomore guard Maggie Brown, however, that actually turned the tide.
Fouled while shooting a 3-pointer with 1:08 left in the first half, Brown drained all three free throws to pull Cortland to within one, at 22-21. She then stole the subsequent inbounds pass by CBA and hit a layup with 1:04 left to give the Purple Tigers their first lead of the game. Tennant hit three free throws down the stretch and sophomore guard Michelle Wiese hit a layup for the Brothers just before the buzzer as the hosts left the court with a 26-24 halftime lead.
“I just saw where the inbounds pass was going, stepped up and took it,” Brown said of her crucial play. “Coach told us at halftime that we’d played with a lot of heart, coming back from being down by double digits.”
“It shows a lot of character to come back after being down by 10 points like that,” Penoyer said.
CBA scored the first two points of the second half on an inside shot by senior forward Victoria Johnson to tie the game at 26-26, but CHS senior forward Maggie Reagan then scored the next four points to give the hosts a lead they never relinquished. She then scored the next four Purple Tiger points, and ended up with eight of Cortland’s 12 points in the stanza, which ended with the winners up 38-30.
“The second half is always our game,” Reagan said. “That’s when we took it. We were able to out-rebound them, which was huge, and run the court. Our speed is one of our biggest strengths. We just had to calm down and get into our game; we hit a couple of clutch shots, and that was it.”
The Purple Tigers led by 12 points twice in the fourth, the last after Brown knocked down a pair of free throws to make it 51-39 with 4:10 left. The Brothers, however, came back with a vengeance after Niland called a timeout, scoring 11 straight points, including five buy standout senior guard Leanne Ockenden and capped by a layup from Wiese with 1:22 left, to make it 51-50. Brown hit a pair from the line to make it 53-50 Cortland with 50 seconds left and CBA was whistled for fouls on its next two possessions before senior guard Aubrey VanGorder wrapped things up by hitting a free throw with five seconds left to close out the scoring.
“Foul shooting was big for us,” said Brown, who led the winners’ 16-for-25 free throw shooting by hitting nine of her 11 chances. “We shot really well, and our defense was good in the second half.”
“Thank God they fouled us. That’s how we made some points down the stretch,” said Penoyer. “They had three scrimmages over the break and we didn’t have any; I gave the girls some time off, and I think that all sowed early. But I actually think we wore them out. It was a fast-paced, tough game.