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February 18, 2009

 

Dragon women clinch top spot

POTSDAM — With junior Jessica Laing scoring the game’s final six points in the final minute of play, SUNY Cortland women did more than pull off a crucial comeback basketball victory Tuesday night.
With a little extra help to go along with a stellar 27-point performance by Laing, the Red Dragons also clinched at least a share for first place in the conference standings after pulling out a 67-61 victory over host Potsdam.
While Cortland was overcoming a seven-point halftime deficit at Jerry Welsh Gymnasium, Oneonta provided that helping hand by knocking off second place New Paltz 61-50 in Oneonta last night.
Now with a 13-1 record in the SUNY Athletic Conference, the first place Red Dragons have a two-game edge over New Paltz (11-3) with road trips to Brockport Friday and Fredonia Saturday left in the regular season. Winning either of those games, or another New Paltz loss, will secure the top seed for the conference playoffs that get underway next week.
Cortland also improved to 20-3 overall, reaching the 20-win mark for the fourth straight season under Coach Jeannette Mosher and the 12th time in school history.
This 20th victory would not come easy, as Potsdam (8-7 SUNYAC, 15-9 overall) proved to be a handful as Cortney Poirier poured in 25 points — 20 of those coming on 8-of-10 shooting in the first half when the Bears built a 41-34 lead.
Laing led the Cortland comeback by scoring 19 of her game-high 27 points in the second half. She also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds while making 14-of-16 free throws for the game — including going a perfect 8-for-8 from the stripe in the second half.
Sophomore forward Jennifer Patten added 15 points and eight rebounds for Cortland, while senior Ali Canale scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds.
The free throw line would be a big advantage for the visitors, who made 23-of-26 shots from the stripe compared to Potsdam’s 3-of-7 output.
Potsdam led 31-20 on a Maureen Curley jumper with 8:18 left in the first half and 41-34 at the break. Cortland took its first lead since a 2-0 margin when Laing’s jumper with 12:06 remaining put the Red Dragons up 47-45.
Leading 56-54, Cortland pushed its lead to seven on back-to-back baskets by sophomore Jennifer Polan, the latter a 3-pointer, with 3:27 remaining.
Rachel Graf hit a shot at the 2:33 mark, followed by a Poirier 3-pointer with 1:55 left and a Graf layup with 1:23 remaining, and the Bears tied the game at 61-61. Laing’s spin-move and basket with 37 seconds left broke the tie, and she hit four free throws over the final 17 seconds to put the game away.
The Red Dragons defense held Potsdam to just 20 second half points. Poirier was held in check over those final 20 minutes, held to five points and making just 2-of-5 shots.