February 20, 2013
Purple Tigers cruise into semis
Lopsided victory sets up Bishop Ludden rematch
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Isaiah Prior (5) works the baseline against Shelton Williams of Indian River in the second quarter Tuesday night at Shafer Gym. CHS opened sectional play with a 66-42 victory.
A couple of scenarios tell the story of Tuesday night’s Section 3 Class A boys’ basketball quarterfinal game between sixth-seeded Indian River and No. 3 host Cortland High.
- Purple Tigers junior guard Zach Whelan got hot in the third quarter, hitting five 3-pointers including four in as many possessions in a span of 2:08. And despite leaving with 1:33 left, he scored 17 points in the stanza — two more than the Warriors managed the entire eight minutes.
- The CHS reserves played the entire fourth quarter, and only a meaningless 3-pointer just before the buzzer gave the visitors’ starters a 12-10 advantage over them in that time.
Also of note is the fact that all this took place after the game had been decided.
When it was all over, Cortland had cruised to a 66-42 win to improve to 17-2 on the season and set up a semifinal matchup with second-seeded Bishop Ludden. Those Gaelic Knights are also 17-2 after beating No. 7 Jamesville-DeWitt 57-45 last night to end the Red Rams’ string of four straight sectional crowns.
The host Gaelic Knights beat the Purple Tigers 57-51 in a regular-season contest on Jan. 11.
A key for CHS on Tuesday night was its “21,” or half-court press, defense.
“That was one thing we decided to go to a little earlier,” Purple Tigers coach Jeremy Milligan said, crediting assistant coach Francis Loiacono with advocating for its use. “I have a good staff in Francis and Tom Neugebauer, and when they suggest something I listen to them. We had the guys in back come up and cover men as well. We essentially matched up wherever their players were, and it caused them some problems.
“We had a bit of a lethargic start but when we settled in I was proud of the way the boys executed our offensive and defensive game plan tonight. We made 25 field goals tonight, 20 of them assisted,” he added.
INDIAN RIVER (14-6) led twice early, 3-0 on a 3-pointer 36 seconds in by senior guard Justin Mattingly and, after that was matched by the first of Whelan’s seven treys in the game, 5-3 on a follow-up shot by junior forward Shelton Williams. From then on it was all Cortland, which led 19-10 after one quarter and used an 18-5 second quarter to take a 37-15 halftime lead.
“The biggest thing was that we didn’t handle their halfcourt pressure,’ Warriors coach Tim Callahan said. “We didn’t attack it the way we should have, and it bothered us. We had 13 turnovers in the first half and 18 for the game, and you can’t do that in sectionals.
“We wanted to handle their pressure consistently, and didn’t do that. We also wanted to make sure we boxed out on the boards, and didn’t to that, either,” he noted, CHS with a 31-29 rebounding advantage.
While the game was over at halftime, Whelan’s show was just beginning, featuring some third-quarter long-distance highlights.
“I shot the first one and it went in, and after that I was feeling it,’” said Whelan, who had all of the winners’ 3-pointers. “My teammates were able find me, and it was a lot of fun. I was a little surprised at how it went, because Indian River’s an athletic team, but I knew that we were going to win.”
“In practice, Zach has days where he catches it and no matter where he shoots from, it’s going in,” Milligan said. “He has that ability, and it usually seems to happen in the third quarter of games.”
Senior forward Brian Hughes had 12 points, three rebounds, three blocks and two deflections on the night, like Whelan all in less than three quarters of play.
“We knew that they were quick, but we took them out of their game with the 21 defense,” Hughes said. “We struggled our first few possessions (against the visitors’ own defensive pressure), but once we settled down and ran our press break they couldn’t keep up with us.
“Josh Gutchess (senior forward, six points and a team-high five rebounds) and I have played together since fourth grade, and when one of us gets the ball inside we’ll score or pass it to the other. It’s tough to guard two 6-4 guys.”
“WE KNEW THAT Williams was their star player, and Mattingly their top 3-point shooter,” Milligan said. “Williams had 17 points, seven in the fourth, and Mattingly ended up with three 3-pointers (and nine total points), two in the second half.
“Isaiah Prior did a great job for us, with six assists, four steals and three deflections.” The senior guard also had seven points.
In addition to Gutchess, junior guard Quadir Artis had four rebounds for CHS. Williams had 10 boards for Indian River to achieve a double-double and added six assists and four steals, while sophomore guard-forward Demetrius Gibson had eight rebounds.
The Cortland-Bishop Ludden contest will take place Sunday at Onondaga CC’s SRC Arena, at either 4 or 6 p.m. The other semifinal will match top-seeded Carthage, 18-1 after a 69-54 quarterfinal win over No. 8 Oneida Tuesday, against fourth-seeded New Hartford, which improved to 16-3 Tuesday by trouncing rival Whitesboro, the fifth seed, 76-34.
“In the backs of all of the players’ minds, they’ve been eager to play Bishop Ludden again,” Milligan said. “I believe that we match up pretty well defensively with them; they may be a little taller than us. We’ve seen them multiple times and feel that we can prepare a good scouting report on them. The coaches are optimistic that we can compile a good game plan, and if the players execute like they have all season, I feel it will be another competitive game.
“I think that going to their place, in front of a lively crowd, and knowing they’re the defending state (Class B) champions, gave them a couple of advantages the first time we played. That game left our players hungry; we’re excited about the opportunity to meet them on a neutral court, and are confident we can play with them again.”
“If we put together all four quarters against Bishop Ludden, it might not be close at the end,” Hughes said. “We only played one good quarter last time, and it was a two-point game late. If we play the way we did tonight and against Corcoran (a 77-59 home win on Feb. 7), I don’t know who can play with us.”
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