February 19, 2007


Sectional sweep for Purple Tigers

CHS boys need OT to survive


Photo provided by Rich Barnes
Cortland High’s Kaywon Pittman, who made a big 3-pointer in overtime, celebrates with teammates after the Purple Tigers topped Oneida 68-60 Saturday in Class A play.

Staff Writer

It’s been the same thing for the Cortland High boys’ basketball team all season — seniors Joel White and Tom Wilk have to score for the Purple Tigers to be successful.
Faced with the possible end of their high school hoop careers, the duo did that and so much more _Saturday night. They led sixth-seeded Purple Tigers to a 68-62 overtime win over visiting Oneida, the scrappy 11th seed, in a Section 3 Class A first-round contest at Shafer Gymnasium.
White, a 6-foot-2 guard, scored 28 points. A dozen of those — including the game-tying 3-pointer with 18 seconds left — came in the fourth quarter, in which Cortland erased a nine-point deficit after three stanzas to force the extra session. He then tacked on five more in the overtime, in which the winners never trailed. White also wound up with six steals and six rebounds in the contest.
Meanwhile, Wilk, a 6-foot-8 center, had a game-high 31 points and pulled down 20 boards, as the_visitors had no answer for him_underneath.
Still, the game came down to two missed free throws by Oneida with 3.2 seconds left (Cortland coach Mick Lowie called a timeout after the first misfire) that kept the game tied and got CHS into the extended playing time that it dominated.
“Wow, we sure dodged a bullet there,” Lowie said in the aftermath of the thrilling victory, which sends Cortland, now 14-6, to visit third-seeded Utica Notre Dame (17-3) Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The Jugglers were 76-42 home floor winners over No. 14 Homer on Saturday afternoon.
“They were able to handle our zone defense, so we played man-to-man the entire second half plus overtime, the most we have in any game this season,” said Lowie of Oneida. “It was great the way the kids came back and persevered. It showed a lot of character and heart. The play out of the timeout (with 25.5 seconds left in regulation) was to get the ball to Joel or, if he wasn’t open, Tom. I was worried when it went to Joel, with Tom wide open, and when he took the 3-pointer with three guys in his face, I said ‘Oh no!’ Then it went in, and I said ‘Oh, yes!’”
That particular play capped a furious rally that came after Cortland trailed 23-12 at the end of one quarter, 37-26 at halftime and 52-43 heading into the final eight minutes. The winners’ savage defense held Oneida to just five points in both the fourth quarter and the overtime session.
“We were only able to play man-to-man because their big kids weren’t a threat at all,” Lowie said. “Tom was able to lay back and, while making sure they didn’t do any shooting inside, was able to sag in the middle and help with the dribble penetration.
“I thought we attacked the basket better in the second half and played good defense, while they became passive on offense.
“We needed a game, a half, like this,” he added. “We didn’t play well against Phoenix (in a 59-54 win in the regular-season finale Feb. 12) or in the first half tonight. The kids needed to reach down deep and decide whether they wanted the season to end tonight or go on for at least three or four more days.”
The answer was obvious, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“Our defense was huge,” White said. “We stepped it up and their shots started falling off. I happened to hit one (a 3-pointer to give CHS a five-point lead, 62-57, 1:05 into the four-minute extra session), and Tom and Kaywon (Pittman) did, too. It was a great team effort. Every single person, both on the floor and on the bench cheering us on, had a part in this one. We came together as a team at the perfect time.”
“We got in (Ryan) Kramer’s face and made him work,” Wilk said. “He didn’t get the shots he had been getting, and they didn’t have a lot down low so I was able to score as well as feed people.
“When it might be your last game, you have to do everything you can and leave it all out there. I think their morale went down the tubes on those missed free throws at the end,” Wilk noted.
The Indians led 57-50 with 4:14 left in regulation but went scoreless the rest of that time. White, in fact, ended up scoring the Purple Tigers’ last 10 regulation points. A 3-pointer made it 55-50 with 5:08 left, while a pair of jumpers with 3:17 and 2:02 remaining cut it to 57-54. He then drained the trey from the right corner with 18 seconds left that tied the game, and it remained deadlocked after the two late misfires on free throws by Oneida.
After Wilk controlled the overtime jump ball, senior forward Pittman hit from the line 22 seconds in to give CHS a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. White then added another 3-pointer with 2:55 left to make it 62-57, and the hosts never looked back. Kramer and Wilk traded baskets, the later with 1:51 remaining, before Oneida’s Bryant Clark hit a 3-pointer to make it 64-62 with just under a minute left. Pittman then nailed a huge basket from the right side with 27 ticks left, and after an Oneida misfire White hit two free throws with 8.4 seconds showing to close things out.
“Give Cortland credit. They hit the big shots when they needed to,” Oneida coach Jeff Didio said quietly outside his team’s locker room minutes after the final buzzer. “They stepped up the defensive pressure and we couldn’t get Ryan loose; that was the difference.
“We missed those free throws late, and then they hit their first two shots of overtime. It’s a game of momentum, and that put them in a great position.”
“It was great to show what we can do, coming back like that,” White said. “We’ll have to step it up and play better against Notre Dame.”     
Despite Wilk’s board work, Oneida had a 40-39 rebounding edge. Kramer led the visitors in scoring with 22 points, while Clark added 14.


CHS girls make it look easy

Staff Writer

This one was over early.
Keyed by Shannon Finucane’s hot hand, the fourth-seeded Cortland High girls’ basketball team scored 15 of the game’s first 17 points and cruised from there en route to a 70-38 win over visiting Oneida, the 13th seed, Saturday evening in the first round of the Section 3 Class A tournament.
Finucane, who led all scorers with 28 points in the contest, was the key to the hosts’ fast start. She drained a trio of 3-point shots in the first 2:37 of the game and ended up with 15 points in the first quarter, which concluded with the Purple Tigers on the long end of a 21-4 score.
“I knew it was a big game and that we had to come out strong,” the junior guard said. “When I hit the first shot, I decided I was going to leave it all out there. There was no use in not doing that. I think that’s the best start we’ve had as a team this season, and it’s definitely the best start I’ve had personally.”
“Shannon always shows up in the big games,” said Cortland coach Dick Penoyer, whose team is now 15-6 and will host No. 5 New Hartford — a 63-35 winner over No. 12 East Syracuse-Minoa Saturday to also improve to 15-6 — in a quarterfinal contest at 7 p.m. Tuesday. “Not only did she have one of her best scoring games, she also did a good job, as point guard, of handling and distributing the ball.
“We wanted to speed things up and not get into a half-court game with them, which is why we used a full-court man-to-man press on defense,” Penoyer added. “When the game is faster, it helps us. Oneida is the biggest team we’ve seen this season, but I knew they didn’t have their point guard — without her they were kind of mismatched, I guess — and another of their leading scorers. I didn’t tell the kids, though, because I didn’t want them to have a down game.”
Having lost both starting point guard Ashley Merrell and forward Emma Adams to injury, Oneida coach Rik Ano noted that his team was searching for someone to handle the ball. That played also played into Cortland’s hands defensively, in particular Finucane, who had eight steals in the contest (as well as six assists) to go along with her points.
“Finucane is a good point guard, and our inexperience showed a little bit,” Ano said after his team had wound up a 7-13 campaign. “They were hitting everything, and we couldn’t hit from inside. We did come back with a good second quarter and I thought we could build on that.”
Though Oneida had a 13-11 second quarter scoring advantage, Cortland still led 34-15 at halftime as Finucane had two more points than the entire Indians squad combined. When the Purple Tigers scored the first six points of the third quarter — four by Finucane — Ano’s hopes of any kind of a comeback were dashed.
“It was nice to see all of the kids score,” Penoyer said. “We also played fairly well defensively the whole game. We stayed in man-to-man the whole game, and didn’t do anything fancy we didn’t need to.”
Complementing Finucane were Amanda Lawlor, who had 13 points and 14 rebounds, and Deanna Bishop, who had 12 points. Cortland ended up with a 32-26 rebounding advantage in the game. The Indians were led in scoring by Autumn McLain (who also had a team-high 14 rebounds) and Becky Adams with eight points apiece.
“Natalie Khazzaka also had a good game for us,” Penoyer said. “She scored six points and played good defense. It was one of her better games. She was active, and it was nice to see her have a game like that.
“This game was a culmination of the kids’ hard work not only in practice but in the off-season, individually and as a team. They’ve worked hard to get to this point. They’re a good team through hard work and perseverance both as a unit and as individuals,” he said.
The contest was the first in a week for the Purple Tigers, whose routine was interrupted somewhat by the week’s winter weather. Penoyer, however, noted: “I wasn’t concerned with the layoff. The kids did a pretty good job of getting together on their own a couple of times. The captains — Shannon, Deanna and Natalie — do a real good job of getting the kids together and getting them to play together.”
The sectional win was Penoyer’s first in his six seasons as CHS coach. “It feels good, and I’d like to get a couple more,” he said. Ano, whose team is a member, along with New Hartford, of the Tri-Valley League, noted there’s a good chance of at least one more.
“Both teams have quick guards who can hit 3-pointers,” he said. “But Cortland has size that New Hartford doesn’t have.”
According to Finucane, it’s better in sectionals to face teams that you haven’t seen in the regular season. “That way you don’t have anything to worry about and can play your own game,” she said. “This one was big for us, and now we have a second home sectional game.”


Both Cortland squads run off with conference crowns

GENEVA — While SUNY Cortland men cruised while capturing a conference team title on Saturday, the women’s squad became conference champions in a more dramatic fashion.
At the SUNY Athletic Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships held at Bristol Field House, located on the Hobart and William Smith Colleges campus, Cortland women did not pull out a first place showing until the final event.
Cortland outscored Geneseo by four points in the 4x400-meter final event to slip past the Knights, Mallory Baker, Ashley Wirges, Fawn Dorr and Jamie Ross making up that foursome. By placing second in the relay to Geneseo’s fifth place showing, the Red Dragons earned their first team title since 1002 and 14th in school history.
Cortland women had been league runner-up each of the past four seasons. Rounding out the field were Brockport (99), Buffalo St. (88), Oneonta (65), Plattsburgh (59), Fredonia (41.5) and Oswego (14).
Cortland men had an easier time.
Behind the strength of six first-place and five second-place finishes, the Red Dragons ran away from the competition with 163 points. Geneseo was in secnd place with 101 and Oneonta placed third with 90. Rounding out the field were Brockport (87), Buffalo St. (75), Plattsburgh (60.5), Oswego (26.5) and Fredonia (21).
Junior Amaan Siddeeq repeated as the 55-meter dash champion with an NCAA Division III Championship automatic qualifying time of 6.34 seconds. The time was 0.02 off the meet record set by former Red Dragon Stefan Mascoll in 1999. Siddeeq also set a new school record in the 200 meters with his second-place time of 22.04 seconds. The previous mark of 22.07 seconds was established by Nick Wetherby in 2005.
Senior C. Fred Joslyn led a top-three sweep for the Red Dragons by repeating as the champion in both the 3,000 and 5,000-meter races. He won the 3,000 meters in 8:36.78, followed by freshman Seth DuBois in 8:47.49 and sophomore Shamus Nally in 8:49.53. In the 5,000 meters, Joslyn won in 15:02.27, with Nally (15:02.28) and DuBois (15:02.63) crossing the finish line at basically the same time as Joslyn.
Senior Andrew Cloke won the mile with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 4:15.42 and sophomore Jake Zanetti claimed his second straight league pole vault title with an ECAC-qualifying height of 14-11.5.
Cortland’s other title came as the distance medley relay of junior James Barracca, freshman Alex Kalinkos, freshman Caleb Olsen and sophomore Niko Viglione were victorious in 10:41.41.




Dragons take team title behind four champions

ITHACA — Winning four individual titles and coming away as the top team in the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference was just part of this SUNY Cortland’s success story.
The Red Dragons also had a half-dozen wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships after Saturday’s strong showing at Ithaca College — including defending national champion Stef Sair.
Those six Red Dragons headed to the NCAA meet being held March 2-3 at Dubuque, Iowa, is the best representation at nationals for the college since 1994.
Coach Brad Bruhn’s squad won the team title for only the second time in the 16-year history of the ECWC, this the first Red Dragon first place showing since 1999. Cortland led the way with 91.5 points, followed by Brockport (82), Ithaca (66.5), RIT (48.5), Oswego (36) and Oneonta (29).
Sophomore Paul LeBlanc repeated as champion at 141 pounds, while his brother, sophomore and fellow Morrisville-Eaton grad Treavor LeBlanc, captured the title at 174 pounds.
Senior Sair, the ECWC and national champion at 174 pounds last season, won the 184-pound title this time around. Sair, also the starting safety on the Red Dragons football team, will be making his third straight trip to nationals.
Junior Phil Archer earned his ticket to nationals with a first-place finish at 197 pounds.
Cortland’s four ECWC champions are its highest total ever — the previous best was three in both 1996 and 2004.
Cortland’s other two national qualifiers came via ‘wild card’ selections chosen by the league’s coaches after the meet. Junior Zack Bogardus finished second at 165 pounds and freshman Dave Colagiovanni placed second at 125 pounds.
Both LeBlanc brothers were seeded first in their weight classes and finished the day with 2-0 records.
Paul LeBlanc opened with a 3-1 win over Brockport’s Deone Williams and won 6-4 with an overtime takedown in the finals versus Oswego’s Derrick Smith, the second seed. An All-American last season with a fourth-place national finish, he will bring a 32-2 record into this year’s national meet.
Treavor LeBlanc pinned Tyler Daffinee of Ithaca in 2:44 and won 5-3 over second-seeded Eric VanPatten of Brockport in the finals. Making his first NCAA appearance, he is 23-5 on the season.