January 6, 2012
Cortland Christian boys rally to upend unbeaten
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jathan Iler of Cortland Christian Academy puts up a jumper against Finger Lakes Christian Thursday. Iler had nine points and 10 rebounds in the Saints’ 57-56 win.
Behind a 41-point performance by senior Nathan Ploss, capped by the go-ahead free throws with 5.4 seconds left to play, Cortland Christian Academy boys knocked off a previously unbeaten Finger Lakes in a thrilling 57-56 battle between first place basketball contenders.
The Saints overcame a four-point deficit in the final minute of play in Thursday’s Empire State Christian Athletic League encounter, as the visitors from Seneca Falls helped out by missing four free throws down the stretch.
Finger Lakes was only 3-for-12 from the charity stripe for the game.
That helped Cortland Christian improve to 4-1 against ESCAL foes and 5-1 overall. It was the first loss in seven outings for Finger Lakes, six of those contests league affairs.
To get this twin bill underway, Cortland Christian girls got 17 points from Alainey Sweeney in a 46-14 victory over Finger Lakes.
— Cortland Christian boys had to come from behind twice, including trailing 16-5 in the opening quarter. The Saints pulled to within 26-21 by halftime but still trailed 37-30 in the third quarter when Ploss scored nine unanswered points to put the hosts in front for the first time. And when eighth grader Brandon Nelson came up with possession during a midcourt scramble and fed Ploss at the waning moments of the third quarter, Ploss hit a 3-pointer to put Cortland Christian up 44-41 heading into the final stanza.
Finger Lakes — which had 17 points from David Carey, 14 from John Sandlas and 10 from Tyler Norris — recovered and led 56-52 heading into the last minute of play to set the stage for one final Saints comeback.
Ploss made it a one-point contest with his third trey of the game with 13 seconds left, and Cortland Christian’s Nelson fouled immediately. Finger Lakes missed the front end of that 1-and-1 chance, senior Jathan Iler grabbing his 10th rebound of the game leading to a Saints timeout with 10.8 on the clock.
Finger Lakes then fouled Ploss well away from the basket, and he made both ends of his 1-and-1 free throw opportunity with just over five seconds to go. Finger Lakes did not get off a good shot in the remaining time.
It was the fourth time in his career Ploss has scored more than 40 points in a game. The single-game school record of 46 points was achieved back in the 1983-84 season when Todd Cryster reached that number twice in back-to-back contests.
Team rebounding leader Iler added nine points to the winning cause. Jordan Rofe had five points, while Nelson, Ploss and seventh grader Peter Hicks got their hands on six rebounds apiece.
Finger Lakes, which had one starter absent, will get a rematch in Seneca Falls on Jan. 17.
— Cortland Christian girls are now 4-1 in ESCAL play and 5-1 overall, as Sweeney scored 13 of her 17 points in the second half. Up just 15-6 at the break, the Lady Saints went on a 25-2 second half run to pull away for keeps.
A pair of free throws provided the lone offense for Finger Lakes (2-3 ESCAL, 2-4 overall) during that decisive pullaway.
Kristen Miller had nine points and five rebounds for the Lady Saints. Brianna Harvey had a solid game with eight points, six rebounds, four steals and three assists. Hannah Eckert topped Finger Lakes with six points.
Both Cortland Christian teams are off until Friday, Jan. 13, when they travel to Norwich to take on Valley Heights on the DCMO Boces court. The girls get that doubleheader going at 6 p.m.
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