January 18, 2014
Purple Tigers get tamed
SYRACUSE — One quarter, and one player, pretty much sealed the deal Friday night on the host Syracuse CBA boys’ basketball team’s 56-37 win over Cortland High.
The Brothers, who never trailed in the contest, had a narrow 28-20 lead at halftime after taking a 13-10 lead into the second quarter. Charlie Russo took over for the hosts in the third, scoring nine of his game-high 23 points as the hosts used a 13-7 advantage to build a 41-27 lead heading into the final eight minutes during which the Purple Tigers would get no closer that 13 points.
“When we scouted CBA we saw that they played a 1-3-1 zone press, but not consistently,” Purple Tigers coach Jeremy Milligan said, his team held to its season-low point total. “Tonight they played it throughout and we didn’t handle it well.
“We tried to make some adjustments at halftime to break the press, which we weren’t able to do in the first half. At times in the second half we did break it, but we didn’t show enough patience or work our offensive sets. We were rushing shots and were out of the flow. We went 14-for-47 (30 percent) from the floor (30 percent) and 3-for-19 (16 percent) on 3-pointers; it was definitely an off-night shooting, partially due to everyone being flat as well as their defense.”
By contrast, CBA went 22-for-54 from the floor (41 percent), making four 3-pointers in 15 attempts (27 percent). “I’m proud of the kids,” a smiling Brothers coach Buddy Wleklinski said after his team had improved to 4-3 in the OHSL Freedom American Division and 5-6 overall. “That’s the best we’ve looked on offense all year, and the best the 1-3-1 has worked for us. The kids have been taking quick shots, not taking time off the clock. Charlie is in his fourth varsity season, and averages 15 points a game or so. He’s one of our leaders.
“This is a big win, a quality win, for us; Cortland is a very good, athletic, well-coached team. They run their stuff and play hard. Jeremy does a great job. I was pleased that coming off a tough loss at J-D Tuesday (80-71) we bounced back well.”
As noted, Russo was a big part of that. He had seven points at halftime before his third-quarter outburst, which included seven points in a row in the span of 1:44 late in the stanza. “It was mostly my teammates getting me open shots,” said the senior guard, who sank a pair of 3-pointers en route to his game-high total. “Coach has talked about working to get open shots, and fortunately tonight I was able to make them. We ran the offense well in the first half, and our defense picked us up in the second as we were able to get some steals and layups as well as and-ones (baskets plus fouls for traditional 3-point plays).
“Cortland is a good team. I know that coming in they’d only lost to Jamesville-DeWitt and Bishop Ludden in the league. They’re very well-coached, and are going to get better throughout the rest of the season. “We needed this one; we were just 4-6 coming in, so it was good to get this one. It’s a good win for us.”
Milligan and his team -- which fell to 4-3 in the Freedom National Division and 7-4 overall -- came in riding a similar wave of good feelings after playing Ludden, the top-ranked Class A team in the state, tough the whole way Tuesday in what ended up a 73-60 home loss. Asked how he thought Friday’s setback would affect his player, Milligan noted that he felt they’d respond well Sunday, when they face Corcoran starting at 7 p.m. at Onondaga CC’s Allyn Hall as part of the revamped Pathfinder Bank Zebra Classic format.
“The Ludden game gave our players a lot of confidence,” he said. “Perhaps we came in and took CBA a little bit for granted. We knew their record was below .500, but they proved tonight that, despite that, they’re a legitimate force in the league.”
One positive for Cortland, Milligan noted, was the return of senior point guard Eamonn Mahar, who had been out since being injured early in CHS’s 66-50 win at Mexico Dec. 10. He missed six full games, came into Friday’s contest midway through the second quarter and finished with three assists, sharing the team lead in that category with senior forward Teddy Phillips.
Kennedy had eight rebounds and senior guard Qadir Artis added six for the visitors, who were out-boarded 40-29. No individual statistics, other than scoring, were available for CBA.
Junior guard Sage Brown led the Purple Tigers with 17 points, including a 3-pointer, while junior forward Quinn Kennedy added 11. Junior guard Monte Stroman complemented Russo with 12 points for CBA, including a 3-pointer.
CORTLAND JVs also lost to Syracuse CBA, the hosts romping to a 77-45 win that was started by a 23-8 first-quarter scoring advantage. Sophomore guard Kersean Perry had 11 points for the Purple Tigers, now 5-2 in the league and 9-3 overall, while sophomore forward John Khazzaka added nine, including one 3-pointer.
The Brothers, who hit a dozen 3-pointers in the game, were led by Paul Aversa’s 18 points, including five treys. Charles Pride added 16 with two 3-pointers and three players — Brandon Gacek, Nate Brower and Mark Lutz (two 3-pointers) — scored 10 each.
The CHS JVs host Mexico this Friday at 5:30 p.m., with the varsity game to follow.
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