January 23, 2016

CHS savors special night


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Christopher Luke, of Cortland High, eyes the basket, defended by Bryant Quinlan, of Homer, Friday night at Shafer Gym.

Staff Writer

A jam-packed Shafer Gym on a special night with a rivalry involved meant a lot of excitement Friday as the Homer Central boys’ basketball team took on Cortland High in a non-league game.
In the end, things were a little more exciting for the home folks as the Purple Tigers came away with a hard-fought 49-41 win on CHS’s Coaches vs. Cancer Night.
“It was an incredible atmosphere,” Cortland coach Jeremy Milligan said. “It was awesome to look up to see no empty space in the bleachers, especially on a special night with so much going on.”
“It should be fun,” Trojans coach Sean Malone said of the rivalry contest and all of Friday’s trappings. “The kids should enjoy it, and I think they did. It was spirited, with some trash talk back and forth for awhile, and that’s OK.”
The two teams did a good job of adding to the excitement, playing a tight game that wasn’t decided until late. There were four lead changes and one tie in the first half, which ended with the visitors on top by one, 26-25 after taking an 18-13 lead into the second quarter.
The Purple Tigers scored the first seven points of the third quarter — four by senior center Chris Luke and the others on an old-school three-pointer (basket and foul shot) by junior guard Will Pace — to take the lead for good, but couldn’t shake Homer, which didn’t score in the stanza until senior guard Jerrad Reiner collected a basket and foul shot of his own with 3:06 left.
The stanza ended with the hosts on top 37-32 and they built the lead to as much as nine, at 41-32, with 4:59 left in the game, before the Trojans stormed back to within three, 41-38, with 2:47 remaining on two free throws by junior guard Jacob Rivers. That came after sophomore forward Stephen Walters had come off the bench with two straight baskets, including the visitors’ first points of the fourth, 3:20 in.
A driving, twisting layup by CHS senior guard Johnny Phillips, followed by a rebound basket from Reiner, left the score at 43-40 with 38 seconds left, at which point Malone called a timeout.
Pace was then able to shake free from Homer’s pressure defense and hit a layup with 27 seconds left. Homer turned the ball over on its ensuing possession, and senior guard Nick Craig drained four free throws, sandwiched around a free throw by Rivers, for the final margin.
PACE AND CRAIG finished with 14 points each for the winners, now 7-8, while Luke had 10 points to go along with 10 rebounds for a double-double. Luke also had three blocked shots while Pace had four assists and two steals, Craig five rebounds and two assists, senior forward John Khazzaka nine rebounds and three blocked shots, junior guard Garrett Reagan six rebounds and Phillips four rebounds and five assists.
CHS had a 37-23 advantage on the boards.
Rivers took game honors with 17 points, including three 3-pointers, for Homer (6-8) and also had four rebounds while Reiner added 14 points to move into fifth on Homer’s career scoring list with 635 points and also had nine rebounds and four assists. Sophomore forward/guard Bryant Quinlan had four rebounds and two assists and senior forward James Denkenberger also had two assists.
“A big emphasis for us coming in was needing to take advantage of Chris’s size inside,” Milligan said of the 6-foot-10 Luke. “Homer played an active 2-3 zone most of the game and at halftime we discussed doing a better job of passing inside and talked with Chris about demanding the ball inside.“We knew that Rivers and Reiner were their top offensive threats.We did as good job of forcing Rivers to his weak side in the second half, when we held him to just three points, all on free throws.We went mostly man-to-man, and with Nick out a good part of the game in foul trouble and with all the screens they run it was a collective team effort to get that done.”
“Everything went well in the first half, then we stopped running our offense,” Malone said. “I think that in the third quarter We let our emotions run too high and it took awhile to cool down. Pat of it was inexperience. We had one senior on the floor and a point guard (junior Riley McEvoy) who’s still learning theposition.
“Craig can hurt you running north to south so we had to make sure to stop him, and our bigs spent a lot of energy battling Luke. We made a good comeback when we were down by nine but there had a little miscommunication at the end. But I was very pleased that defensively we were able to hold them to 49 points.”
“WE WERE ABLE to get out and run, and started making shots,” Craig said. “Coach said at halftime that he didn’t care about the score, and knew that we could come out, play better in the second half and beat them. Beating our rivals will be a good boost for us.”
“Coach fired me up to be more focused in the second half,” said Luke, who had the four third-quarter points and six of his 10 in the second half. “He told us all to play more focused and not shoot right away like we did a lot on the first half. This win will give us a boost, especially in our next game with them, at Cortland State (Feb. 1 in a league game). That game will be even more exciting.”
In describing his late key layup. Pace noted that “We’d been practicing breaking the press all week long. I found an opening, Jonny made a great pass and I finished. We’ve got a little run going after a tough starter, and we have to keep working hard. This will be a confidence booster .”
“We’ll see these guys again in 10 days,” Malone said. “It’s going to be fun.”
HOMER JVs held on for a just-as-exciting 46-43 win over Cortland in the evening’s prelim to improve to 10-3 on the season. Sophomore Dominick Natale led the way for the winners with 17 points and classmate Justin Wainwright added 10.
The Purple Tigers (4-10) were led by sophomore guard Izeah Williams with 12 points and sophomore guard-forward Brian Ngo with 10. Sophomore forward John Blanchard had 10 rebounds.
Homer led 10-4 after one quarter, 22-16 at halftime and 30-29 heading into the final eight minutes.
Both Cortland teams host Ithaca Tuesday in non-league action starting with the 5:30 p.m. JV game. Homer’s teams visit Phoenix Monday for non-leaguers, the JV game tipping off at 5 p.m.

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