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January 14, 2012

 

Red Dragons let one slip away

First Place Oneonta spoils big comeback

Basketball

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Erin Wolstenholme (left) and Ally Biordi (right) of SUNY Cortland tie up Alyshia Crawford of SUNY Oneonta Friday night at Corey Gym. First place Oneonta pulled out a 67-62 victory.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

In agonizing fashion, a chance to secure a crucial conference victory slipped away from the basketball grasp of SUNY Cortland women on Friday night.
“It’s a shame to lose one at home against a good team. We had them,” is how Cortland’s disappointed head coach Jeannette Mosher summed up what transpired in a 67-62 loss to SUNY Athletic Conference leader Oneonta.
After spotting the visitors a 13-point head start to open the game, after still trailing by 15 points late in the first half, the host Red Dragons had staged gritty a comeback to build up a 62-55 advantage with 4:49 left to play on their Corey Gymnasium home floor.
Instead of finishing off what would have been their third straight victory and Oneonta’s first conference setback, the Red Dragons went scoreless down the stretch while yielding 12 unanswered points.
Freshman guard Brittany Rando’s 13-point contribution off the Cortland bench including three key 3-pointers, senior guard Brittany Cohen’s 12 points and six assists and sophomore forward Megan Touhey’s 11 points and five rebounds went squandered. So were the eight points, seven rebounds and four assists from senior guard Ally Biordi in a reserve role that were crucial to this rally.
“You’ve got to close out games,” said Coach Mosher after her team’s hopes of climbing back into conference contention were dashed, perennial contender Cortland now a surprising 3-4 in conference play and 8-6 overall with New Paltz in town for a 2 p.m. matinee this afternoon.
“The last four minutes we just did dumb stuff,” she added. “Towards the end of the first half we started playing a little bit more, but we weren’t ready to come out of the gates and we got in a hole. In the second half we did a good job, and in the last four minutes we just did not make smart plays.”
Give Oneonta credit for not folding after Cortland overcame a double-digit deficit. Madison Slagle scored 18 points and Alyshia Crawford 14 for the visiting Red Dragons, who share Cortland’s nickname and are now a perfect 6-0 in conference play and 8-4 overall.
“I think the thing about this group is they’re really a good team.They trust each other. They are an on-the-court and off-the-court team,” said Oneonta coach Daphne Thompson after her team refused to get rattled.
COACH THOMPSON was not at all surprised to see Cortland come back.
“I told our players at the start of the game, Cortland is streaky. They’re going to score some baskets in a row. That’s just how they play and you have to be able to mentally handle that,” said Thompson. “You don’t know when it’s going to happen, but they’re going to go on a flow and score a lot of points in a short amount of time.”
Cortland missed its opening seven shots, the first four launched from beyond the 3-point arc, and turned the ball over five times while Oneonta was jumping out to a 13-zip lead. The hosts trailed 15-1 before Molly Byrne’s 3-pointer in transition off a Cohen assist gave Cortland’s its first basket a mere six minutes and 17 seconds into the game.
The Oneonta lead was 35-20 when Cortland starting turning things around, scoring the final six points of the opening half on a Rando side swish, a pull-up Cohen jumper and a lay-up by Byrne in the final second.
Rando had a couple of early 3-pointers to continue that momentum swing in the second half, to go along with treys by Byrne and Cohen. It was the Cohen trey that put Cortland ahead for the first time at 40-39.
Tied at 52-52 later in the half, Cortland seemed to take charge when Touhey knocked down consecutive 3-pointers. Though Oneonta’s Crawford responded with a trey of her own, Biordi passes set up freshman and Oneonta native Erin Wohstenholme for a lay-up and a short shot from the side and Cortland had its biggest lead at 62-55.
Four turnovers, missed shots and an errant free throw chance were part of the late Cortland collapse that saw that advantage vanish over the final four-plus minutes. A pair of Crawford free throws with 2:26 left to play put Oneonta ahead to stay, with a lay-up by Grace Schilling at 0:45 and a pair of free throws by Kristin Pappalardo at 0:11 finishing off this hard-earned victory.
“IT’S JUST DISHEARTENING. We have to be smarter than that,” said Coach Mosher of her team’s untimely troubles. “We have senior leadership at the guard spot, and in the first half we turned it over without really being pressured.”
The final Cortland turnover count would be 21. Oneonta survived 17 turnovers of its own.
“Down the stretch, the last four minutes, just kills us,” added Mosher. “We fouled 90 feet from the basket, we turned it over a couple of times without getting a shot.... against a good team you’re going to pay for that, and we did.”Oneonta switching to a man-to-man defense also helped hold down Cortland.
“Our zone defense is pretty strong, but we got out of synch,” said winning coach Thompson. “I decided we were tired, and sometimes when you’re tired simple is better than complicated.”

 

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