January 15, 2016

Purple Tigers pull out OT win

FULTON — A bad first half, followed by a strong second half, still didn’t yield a result for the Cortland High boys’ basketball team against host Fulton Thursday night.
Fortunately for the Purple Tigers, their second-half momentum carried over in overtime and they were able to come away with a 49-45 OHSL Freedom Division win.
CHS is now 4-4 in the Freedom National Conference — good for a first-place tie with Chittenango (3-3) — and 5-8 overall. The Red Raiders fell to 4-4 in the Freedom American and 5-6 overall.
A pair of seniors, point guard Nick Craig and center Chris Luke, led he second-half charge for the winners, who trailed 17-4 after one quarter and 28-13 at halftime. Craig, who saw limited action early in the game due to an illness that forced him to miss practice Wednesday, scored 10 of his 19 points in the third quarter, in which Cortland used a 16-6 advantage to pull to within five, 34-29.
Luke, meanwhile, collected nine of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the visitors drew even at 44-44, a late turnover resulting in a final Fulton shot that fell short as the buzzer sounded. Luke also finished with 14 rebounds for a double-double.
Senior guard Jonny Phillips opened the scoring in the extra session with a field goal before Red Raiders senior guard Cody Green, who led his team with 19 points, sank his fourth 3-pointer of the game to give the hosts their last lead, 45-44. Luke then scored inside to give Cortland the lead for good, 46-45, and later added a free throw while Craig knocked down a pair from the foul line for the final margin.
“BY THE END OF the second quarter our energy level was back, but we were only matching Fulton,” Purple Tigers coach Jeremy Milligan said. “After such a lethargic start, playing even was not going to be enough. At the half, we discussed the need to bring more energy and the need to do a better job with our post defense. We also discussed the need to slowly crawl back into the game one possession at a time.
“We told the players that Chris had to get some touches. We emphasized great passes only if he was open, and we emphasized to Chris the need to get better positioning on the court so when he did touch the ball he could score more easily, having a better angle. Our players responded right away. We started to utilize some half-court and full-court zone presses that slowed the Fulton scoring and forced other players besides Green to handle the ball.”
Milligan also noted that it was evident that Craig wanted to take the game over in the third quarter and was able to do so as CHS used its spread offense when Fulton went back to playing some man-to-man defense.
“After cutting the lead to five, the momentum kept rolling,” Milligan said. “We never trailed by more than five the rest of the contest. Fulton settled into primarily a 2-3 zone in the fourth, recognizing their inability to match up against Nick. We pounded the ball into Chris, who took advantage of his size. He really worked hard to get better positioning, staying low on his catch, and then exploding up at the basket.”
THE VISITORS TIED the score at 38-38 with 3:46 left, the first deadlock since 2-2 early in the game. Neither team led by more than two points the rest of the way in regulation, and the score was tied three times, including 44-44 at the buzzer, setting the stage for overtime.
Craig had seven rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals on he night while Phillips also had seven rebounds and added four assists and four deflections. The winners had a 42-32 advantage on the boards.
Senior forwards Josh Hudson and Justin Hood added 13 and 11 points, respectively, for Fulton.
“I could not be happier for our team,” Milligan said. “What an outstanding second half and overtime effort. Any time you can get a road win you take it. Offensively, our two top threats stepped up and played great in the second half, leading our scoring bursts. Defensively, what a team effort of really working hard to reduce Green’s looks and hitting the boards.”
CORTLAND JVs were drubbed by Fulton 58-27 and fell to 4-8 on the season. Sophomore forward John Blanchard had six points and freshman swingman Noah Barber added five.
Cortland’s teams both visit Fowler on Tuesday.


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