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January 27, 2010

 

Dragons reach the top

Trip Oneonta women to claim share of 1st place

BasketballBob Ellis/staff photographer
Mary Bruns (33) of SUNY Cortland puts in a layup over Erika Puffer (15) of SUNY Oneonta at Corey Gym last night.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Sure, SUNY Cortland’s Jessica Laing can do it all.
The school’s all-time scoring and rebounding leader has pretty much proven that fact during her four stellar basketball seasons with the Red Dragons.
Still, you can’t ask the 5-foot-11 senior forward to do it all by her lonesome, which is just what was happening in the first half of Cortland’s bid to earn a share of first place with SUNY Athletic Conference leader Oneonta in town.
So once Laing got a little help from her friends Tuesday night at Corey Gymnasium, especially sophomore Micki Volpini, it was mission accomplished for the Red Dragons.
Laing scored 18 of her game-high 24 points in a brilliant first half performance, Volpini scored all 19 of her points after intermission and the Red Dragons came up with a hard-earned 69-63 victory over Oneonta to create a first place deadlock atop the women’s conference standings.
“You know, all we did tonight was win a game you’re suppose to win at home,” said happy Cortland head coach Jeannette Mosher after reaching a personal milestone with her 300th career victory. A total of 267 of those wins (against just 62 losses) have come during her 12 seasons running things from the Red Dragons bench after having coached at Alfred previously.
Of course, this win was a little more important than that as co-leaders Cortland and Oneonta are now both 8-1 at the mid-way point of conference play. They will meet again on Feb. 16 in Oneonta.
“It took a little pressure off our shoulders, but we still have to keep it up,” said Laing after an eighth straight victory kept the team from falling two games behind their rivals. Cortland improved to 11-3 overall.
And it was an 11-3 run late in the second half that enabled Cortland to build a 61-52 lead, Oneonta hurting itself by missing the front end of three consecutive one-and-one foul line trips during that span. The visitors never got closer than four points after that.
Rebecca Bucci had 15 points, six-foot junior Sarah Waltersdorf came off the bench to toss in 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the low post and sophomore center Samantha Szkowtak added 12 points for Oneonta. The visitors led 32-29 at halftime lead despite Laing’s efforts, too.
“It was a good game for us against a very good team,” said Coach Mosher, Oneonta now 10-6 overall this season.
“We were out-sized and in terms of that we know some areas we need to work on, and that’s interior defense,” added Mosher. “I still think we need to show a little more poise at times on the offensive end. Those are areas we’ll continue to focus on and if we can do that we’ll be where we need to be at the end of the year.”
HAVING VOLPINI step up was crucial. She picked up two fouls and missed the only shot she attempted in her eight minutes of court time in the opening half.
“I singled her out at half and said’ Micki, we need you to be more aggressive. You’re non-existent. You’re 0-for-1,’” said Coach Mosher. “Jess can’t be a one-man team, and she’s not. If Micki can pick it up, that relieves a little bit for Jess and others will pick it up, too.”
Starting from a successful drive just 11 seconds into the second half, though she missed the free throw that would have finished off an old-fashioned three-point play, Volpini certainly got involved in the offense.
“That kind of got me on a roll,” said Volpini of that early basket. “We do have an offensive arsenal. A lot of different people can produce.”
With Volpini swishing 3-pointer from the corner and point guard Allyson Biordi hitting a trey from the left-wing, Cortland grabbed a 37-36 lead. Oneonta forged back in front, a Bucci 3-pointer part of that response, to build a 45-41 lead.
But Volpini hit again from 3-point land. And after a Waltersdorf inside bucket, a Jennifer Polan trey and a three-point play by Volpini after going end-to-end upon grabbing a defensive rebound put Cortland ahead 50-47 with 11:53 left in the half.
Oneonta never led or pulled even again.
“I think our whole intensity level in the second half was a lot better, and that just pulled everything up,” said Volpini. “With our defense, our offense came out of that. In the first half we didn’t calm each other down and run an offense, while in the second half we were saying, okay, let’s run this, like the baseline, and we just calmed down.”
“Micki needs to be aggressive. When she’s not aggressive sometimes she’s hiding and she’s non-existent out there at either end,” said Coach Mosher. “That’s definitely what we needed from her and hopefully it will stay consistent.”
Point guard Biordi added seven points and eight rebounds to the Cortland cause. Forward Mary Bruns added six points, including a pair of crucial free throws with 53.9 seconds left after being fouled in the act of shooting to build a 65-59 lead. Senior guard Miranda Lustig was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line to help out, the winners 17-of-20 from the stripe.
LAING IS ALWAYS consistent, and from an opening 3-pointer that opened the scoring 22 seconds into the game she pretty much carried the Red Dragons early.
“My shots were dropping and I was getting the drives. Things just seemed to be going my way,” said Laing after making half of her 14 shots including a trio of treys over the opening 20 minutes.
“It’s always fun to play them, because they’re also the Red Dragons and it’s especially good for me because it’s near my home town and I know a lot of the girls,” added Laing, the native of Bloomville who led South Kortright out of Section 4 to a state title in high school. “It’s good to play against familiar faces.”
Cortland now heads to the road, playing at Brockport Friday night and Geneseo Saturday afternoon — Geneseo responsible for the lone conference loss on the Red Dragons record.