February 13, 2008


Getting an ‘A’ in chemistry

AAU summer play helped create CHS cohesiveness


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Fawn Lolar (54) leads the OHSL Freedom Division champions into the Section 3 Class A tournament. The Purple Tigers are seeded third.

Staff Writer

The members of the Cortland High girls’ basketball team have all gotten one final grade already this season.
Each of the Purple Tigers gets an “A” in chemistry.
“It’s taken four years to get to the point we’re at now,” CHS coach Dick Penoyer said recently, his team the third seed for the upcoming Section 3 Class A tournament at 18-2 overall after having won the OHSL Freedom American Division championship with a 12-1 league record.
“This group has gotten progressively better. We were 8-13 two seasons ago and 15-7 last year. The most important thing is the chemistry on the team,” he added. “The kids truly enjoy being with each other, on the court and off it. Recently we had a spaghetti dinner at (assistant coach) LeeAnn Martins’ house and just spent the whole time laughing. The girls all pull for each other, and believe in each other.”
A big part of the team’s closeness is the fact that they all work hard on the game in the off-season. In fact, five members of the Purple Tiger squad — seniors Shannon Finucane, Amanda Lawlor, Deanna Bishop, Fawn Lolar and freshman Courtney Tennant — were members of the CNY Elite AAU team last summer, coached by Finucane’s father, Brian.
“We were a close team last year, too, even though we’re all from different groups,” said Lawlor, a senior forward-center. “This season we’re even closer because the five of us played together during the summer. Our entire team is like one big family.”
“Amanda and I grew up like sisters, which is why we’re so close,” said Shannon Finucane, a senior point guard and one of the team’s tri-captains, whose family moved to Cortland from Florida before her freshman year. “That’s why we’re so close. We’ve played together since we were 10. The others feed off that; the five of us played together on the AAU team.
“We come from all different groups of the school,” she added. “There aren’t any cliques on the team. It helps that it’s a small team, not a bigger squad with more players like lacrosse or soccer. We have to be friends with each other. We’re all we have.”
Senior forward Bishop, another tri-captain, cited the AAU team and time spent together off the court as reasons the Purple Tigers are such a tight-knit unit. That is a benefit on-court, of course. “We know each other so well that we know in advance and don’t have to ask what any other player is going to do,” she said. “Everyone knows where everyone else is going to be and is going to do at any time. And being friends gives us more confidence playing together.”
“We don’t argue as much or get frustrated as easily,” said Lolar, a senior forward and the third tri-captain, who also made mention of the AAU team as a factor in the team’s cohesiveness. “We realize that everyone makes mistakes, and we coach each other, too. We’re used to playing together.”
The coaches also enjoy the benefits of having a tight-knit group to work with.
“The girls work as a unit and take care of each other,” Penoyer said. “That makes it easier on the coaches, plus they get along so well and the captains take charge and help make sure their teammates do the things they’re supposed to.
“Amanda’s been her two years and the other seniors, including (guards) Kim Hall and Lauren Shirley, have been together for three years now. They’re always pulling for each other.”
“It’s a very unselfish, great group of girls,” said Martins, who’s been a Penoyer assistant during each of his seven seasons as head coach of the team. “They support each other and help each other on and off the court, and were all looking forward to the start of the season. It’s great, and so much fun. You just want to be there all the time.”
“The girls are all friends and do things together like the dinners,” said Ron Hulslander, a seven-year CHS assistant coach, including the last six with the varsity after one with the junior varsity. “Shannon is the big leader; the girls believe in her, and it goes from there. They’re a pleasure to coach. They respect us as coaches and believe what we tell them. They listen and may not like it sometimes, but in the long run they figure out we’re right.
“One girl may not hustle in practice, and a couple of the others will get on her and she’ll start hustling again. They pick each other up and encourage each other.”
“From day one these kids clicked,” Brian Finucane said of the local players on his AAU squad. “When we brought in kids from other schools a couple of the team members didn’t know each other, but you would have thought they were all best friends. The minute they decided to step out on the court together as a unit, they were cohesive and together as a team. They worked hard; there was no dogging it, and there weren’t any attitudes.”
A team as tight as the Purple Tigers having such a successful season is bound to create an impressive storehouse of memories. “When we’re all together, we have a great time,” Shannon Finucane said. “We have the dinners where we pick on coach Penoyer, and we played Secret Santa at Christmas. We’re having fun, and it helps that we’re having a great season.”
“We just sit at the table at our dinners — at Mrs. Martins’ usually, she’s our team mom — and go back and forth,” Lawlor said. “We tell stores and jokes, and laugh about the things we do.” Bishop, meanwhile, noted that “It (team closeness) even extends to seeing each other in school. If you know a person is having a bad day, you try to make their day better. We’re teammates and friends both. Being a smaller team (numbers-wise) definitely helps us be close-knit.”
“When we have the team dinners,” Lolar said, “we all bond and talk about things outside of basketball, as well as basketball.”

Purple Ladies seeded third

The Cortland High girls’ basketball team is seeded third for the upcoming Section 3 Class A tournament, and as a result will not play until Tuesday’s quarterfinal round.
The Purple Tigers will play at home at 7 p.m. that day against the winner of Friday’s contest between No. 11 Chittenango (6-14) and No. 8 Whitesboro (15-5). New Hartford (19-1) is the top seed in the tournament, while Indian River, also 19-1, is No. 2. Mexico, the fourth seed at 15-5, completes the list of teams that get first-round byes.
A win on Tuesday would put Cortland in the semifinals against the winner of another Tuesday contest, between Indian River and either No. 7 Phoenix (12-8) or No. 10 Fulton (8-12), who meet on Friday at Phoenix.




‘Sweep’ success for four Stingers at District meet

Having a foursome of triple winners was just part of a successful Sunday when Cortland Stingers hosted the 2008 Central New York YMCA District Swimming Championships.
To cap an emotionally difficult week after beloved and respected Stingers coach Dick Williams passed away, the Stingers excelled as one of seven teams competing at SUNY Cortland’s Harriet Holsten Pool.
The four Stingers who swept to victory in each of their three events at the meet were Marton Tozer in the boys’ Class E (8-and-under) age group, Madison Bossard and Kenna Hartmann in the girls’ Class D (9-10) competition and Quinn Kennedy in the boys’ Class D.
In Class C (11-12), Tommy Belton for Cortland boys and Taylor Huenink for the girls each won twice. Other individual titles were won by Nick Eckhardt in Class E, as well as Class B (13-14) swimmers Scott McLaughlin and Taeho Ryu.
Williams, who ran the Stingers program since 1968 and died at age 63, was on everyone’s mind.
“On the pool deck, many Stingers paid a personal tribute to Dick Williams by dedicating their swims to him,” said Stingers head coach Mike Falls. “Some even wrote Dick’s initials on their arms as a show of respect to him. He will be greatly missed by our team.”
There were 477 swimmers on hand for the District Championships at the PER Center, where the regular season champion Stingers excelled including winning the girls’ team title in Class D. Cortland went unbeaten in dual meets this season.





Rockets stopped in semis

NEW YORK MILLS — A familiar adversary ended the DeRuyter Central volleyball team’s season Tuesday night.
Third-seeded New York Mills beat the visiting No. 7 Rockets 25-18, 22-25, 25-17, 25-17 in the semifinals of the Section 3 Class D tournament.
The Marauders, now 15-6, thus earned a berth in Sunday’s 3 p.m. championship match at Jamesville-DeWitt against either No. 8 Faith Heritage (15-7) or No. 5 Oppenheim-Ephrata (15-6), who meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at O-E in the other D semifinal.
Tuesday marked the third time in the last four seasons that New York Mills has ousted DeRuyter from sectionals, and its fifth win over the Rockets in the last four seasons. The Marauders prevailed over DeRuyter in the championship matches in 2005 and 2006 (in four and five games, respectively), and beat the Rockets in four games twice during the 2006-07 regular season. New York Mills fell to Faith Heritage in the D final last winter after the Saints had eliminated DeRuyter in the semifinal.
“It seemed to be a night of point runs,” DeRuyter coach Gary Burdick, whose team finished the season at 12-6, said of Tuesday’s match. “Whoever got them seemed to win each game. They got eight service points in a row in the first game, and we got seven in the second. They had runs of five and four points in the third game, and in the fourth they were up 22-6 at one point. We got it to 24-13 and then got four points in a row before they got the side-out to win the match.
“We worked hard and didn’t give up. It’s disappointing not to be able to come away with a win, but don’t take anything away from New York Mills — that’s a good team. We made some hitting errors. We’ve struggled with that all year long. But we had a lot of hits in the match, and you’re bound to make some errors.”
Jen Cizenski had five kills, an ace, 11 assists and a block for DeRuyter and was 100 percent on her serving. Kate Vosburg had eight kills and six aces, Weslee Eckler three kills, four aces and five assists and Polly Gallerani had four kills and two aces and was also 100 percent serving.
Kayla Platt had 15 kills, five digs and three blocks for New York Mills, while Holly Melnikow had 10 kills, four aces and 18 digs, Katie Merrill nine kills, five aces and 14 digs and Alyssa Nicotera seven kills and 22 digs.




Saints get to play for title

Cortland Christian Academy boys avenged one of their two regular season losses last night.
If the Saints can pull off that nifty trick once again, they will be the Empire State Christian Athletic League playoff champions.
Behind a stingy 1-3-1 zone defense, Cortland Christian came up with a 47-27 home court victory over Baldwinsville Christian in a semifinal playoff victory.
Nick Chiano came off the bench to ignite the second seeds with 12 points and 6-foot-8 senior center Greg Buchanan blocked shot shots and altered several other attempts as the Saints avenged a recent 51-49 loss to Baldwinsville Christian.
Now second seed Cortland Christian (12-2) will take on top seed Valley Heights of Norwich in Friday’s title game, a 6:30 p.m. start at Cincinnatus Central High School.
The two teams split regular season outings, Valley Heights pulling off a 54-49 win in Cortland just last week. Back in January, Cortland Christian was a 59-39 winner in Norwich.
The return of C.J. Burnett from injury — the senior guard missing both regular season losses to Baldwinsville Christian and Valley Heights — helped Cortland Christian’s cause in this semifinal tussle. Though he saw limited playing time, he still had six rebounds and three assists as well as making a 3-point shot from the floor.
Chiano was a game-changer in an early defensive struggle. In the first quarter he came off the bench to take a defensive rebound the length of the court for a score before a steal and a breakaway lay-up put the Saints up 9-6 at the end of that opening stanza.
He then scored the opening second quarter basket off a Burnett assist and the Saints were on their way, grabbing a 20-8 halftime lead and pulling away from there.
Buchanan tossed in eight points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a balanced scoring attack, while Kyle Ripley also finished with eight points. Darren Miller had seven points, five rebounds and three assists for the Saints.
Third seed Baldwinsville Christian (12-4) shot just 22 percent from the floor, the visitors out-scored 26-9 in the second and third quarters. Mark D’Anna had 11 points and Lewis Caster eight in the loss.



Groton boys receive fifth seed in Class C

SIDNEY — Groton Central boys are the highest seeded local team as Section 4 announced the basketball playoffs pairing for the upcoming boys’ and girls’ tournaments.
Three local schools will be involved in post-season action.
Groton’s Indians  (14-5 overall) are the number five seed and will host 12-seed Elmira Notre Dame (2-17) in Class C first-round action Tuesday, February 19, at 7 p.m. The winner of this match-up will face fourth-seed Walton (15-4) February 22 at a time and site to be announced.
Other Class C first round match-ups next Tuesday include ninth-seed Tioga (9-9) at eighth-seed Moravia (11-7); 11-seed Newfield (8-10) at sixth-seed Unadilla Valley (13-6) and 10th-seed Sidney (8-10) at seventh-seed Candor (13-6). Top-seed Union Springs (16-2), second-seed Elmira Heights Edison (15-3) and third-seed Oxford (17-2) all received first round byes.
IN CLASS B, Dryden boys are the 13th-seed and the Purple Lions (7-13) will travel to fourth-seed Chenango Valley (13-5) for first round action February 19 at 7:30 p.m. The winner of this game will meet the winner of the 12-seed Greene (9-10) at fifth-seed Watkins Glen (12-6) game in the quarterfinals February 22.
Other first round match-ups include ninth-seed Waverly (9-10) at eighth-seed Susquehanna Valley (11-7); 11-seed Trumansburg (8-10) at sixth-seed Unatego (12-6) and 10th-seed Chenango Forks (4-14) at seventh-seed Newark Valley (11-7). Top-seed Binghamton Seton Catholic (14-5), second-seed Windsor (15-4) and third-seed Lansing (17-1) received first round byes.
Binghamton (13-5) is the top seed in Class AA boys, Oneonta (15-3) is the Class A number-one seed and Hunter-Tannersville (18-1) is the top seed in Class D.