February 21, 2007


Red Dragons to host Final Four


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland guard Kerry Costello faces off against Potsdam’s Maureen Curley (31) during Tuesday’s quarterfinal round playoff game. Senior Costello scored 12 points in a 76-55 Red Dragons’ victory.

Sports Editor

SUNY Cortland women were not about to give this basketball underdog any hopes of pulling off an upset.
The Red Dragons were energetic and focused from the opening tip-off while running off with a lopsided 76-55 victory over Potsdam to get the SUNY Athletic Conference playoffs underway Tuesday night.
The eighth seeded visitors would miss 24 of the 28 shots taken over the opening 20 minutes of play, would seem a step behind Cortland in the early going while falling behind by 18 points when halftime arrived.
Junior forward Sara Cavanaugh scored 15 of her game high 23 points over that opening first half surge that will enable the top seeded Red Dragons (23-2) to play host to the SUNYAC Final Four on Friday and Saturday.
“That gives us a huge edge. I know everyone is happy to be playing at home,” said Cavanaugh, Cortland having won 37 consecutive games at Corey Gymnasium.
“You can’t shoot 14 percent in the first half and expect to come back in the second half against a team that good,” said Tara Ruckh, the second year Potsdam head coach who played in four SUNYAC tournaments with Cortland during her collegiate playing days from 1996-99.
“They proved why they are the top seeded team. After their loss to Brockport, they’ve come back strong and really put the screws to it,” added Ruckh of her alma mater, referring to Cortland’s 55-52 stumble at Brockport last Friday that snapped a 21-game winning streak.
Cavanaugh not only sparked the offense with her big night, including making 3-of-6 shots from 3-point range, but she also led everyone with 11 rebounds as Cortland dominated the backboards in the early going.
Freshmen Jessica Laing had 15 points and eight rebounds in yet another steady showing for the Red Dragons, while seniors Kerry Costello and Erin Dabe also were key contributors. Starting guard Costello had 12 points, four rebounds and three assists, while forward Dabe came off the bench to score eight points and haul in three rebounds.
But it was the defensive work in the early going that gave Potsdam (11-15) fits, the Red Dragons beating the Bears for the third time this month.
“We said before the game, let the defense set the tone and that will carry over to the offensive end. And that’s just what happened,” said Cortland coach Jeannette Yeoman.
CORTLAND TOOK care of business, running out to a quick 10-2 lead that caused Ruckh to call the first of three timeouts in the opening half with just 3:01 having been played.
That quick outburst started with sophomore forward Ali Canale scoring an easy lay-up off an inbounds play on Cortland’s first possession, with Cavanaugh scoring from the low post moments later.
After leading Potsdam scorer Cortney Poirier scored on a drive, Costello scored on a short shot in the lane, Laing converted off the offensive boards and Canale was left all alone underneath where she scored off an assist from point guard Maggie Byrne.
Potsdam did get to within 10-7, only to see the Red Dragons take control with a 15-3 scoring spurt over the next six minutes.
Nine straight points started that outburst, including a Cavanaugh three-point play from inside, a Cavanaugh 3-point shot from the right flank and a Cavanaugh basket after working a perfect pick-and-roll with back-up guard Kristin Ciccone.
That led to Ruckh using her second timeout.
Piorier emerged from that break to make a 3-point shot, but Costello cleaned up on the offensive boards and Laing converted from close after being fed by Ciccone to answer right back.
When Dabe beat the Potsdam defense downcourt for yet another easy basket, Byrne providing the pass, the Cortland lead was 25-10 and Ruckh was using her third timeout with 6:55 left in the half.
Even though Cortland scored just one basket over the final five minutes of the opening half, the lead was 32-14 and this game was pretty much over.
Potsdam never got closer than 16 points in the second half, despite scoring 41 points.
“WE NEEDED IT. This will give us confidence going into the rest of the tournament,” said Cavanaugh. “We knew could could beat them easy and it was very good to come out strong.”
Semifinal play will be on Friday night at Corey Gymnasium, as second seed Brockport (20-6) faces third seed Oswego (18-7) at 6 p.m. followed by Cortland taking on fourth seed New Paltz (17-9). The title game will be at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“Our intensity has been good the last few games,” noted Yeoman. “Even at Brockport we had good intensity, we just didn’t hit any shots in the second half.”
Getting good things from Dabe, Ciccone and Brittany Martin was also important, Yeoman going to her bench often to keep players rested for the defensive task at hand.
“That’s going to be a key for us,” said Yeoman. “Fresh legs are going to be important for us.”
Potsdam was making its first playoff appearance since 1998, Ruckh with a young team that has five freshmen and six sophomores. Sophomore Maureen Curley had 13 points and nine rebounds in this season ending loss.
“It’s bitter sweet at the end,” said Ruckh. “You dont’ want to end with this kind of game. We haven’t been to the playoffs in 11 years and all the accolades that come with that don’t mean much if you don’t win.”


Purple Tigers’ best stuns Jugglers

UTICA — The Cortland High boys’ basketball team has perfect timing.
“No question, this was the best we’ve played all year,” an obviously pleased Purple Tigers coach Mick Lowie said in the wake of his visiting sixth-ranked squad’s stunning 80-68 elimination of No. 3 Utica Notre Dame in a Section 3 Class A quarterfinal game Tuesday night. “To beat a team of that caliber on their court is a great accomplishment for the kids. Going in I had a good feeling. The kids had a great approach to the game and I knew we matched up well with them.
“Our who attitude going in was, ‘Let’s do to them what Oneida did to us, but let’s win,” he said, referring to 13th seed Oneida extending host CHS to overtime before succumbing 68-62 in overtime Saturday. “Let’s just go and play. There’s no pressure on us.’ We scored the first 18 points of the game. We must have made our first eight shots. There’s no question we stunned them.”
Lowie had seen the Jugglers (who finished 18-4), the defending Class A sectional champs and the 12th-ranked team in the state, in two games — their regular-season finale against Camden and Saturday’s 76-42 romp over No. 14 Homer.
“Their style was the same (Tuesday). They used full-court man-to-man pressure with a little zone, but went all man-to-man from half-court, with a lot of trapping from their guards, when they dropped back,” he said. “It’s a perimeter defense, high-risk and high-reward. And, any time you spread the court, Joel White is going to cause problems, and he did.
“Not only was he able to drive the lane to score, but he was also able to find people open underneath. He had 12 assists, and most of them went to Levi Walrath, who Notre Dame left alone all night — I don’t know why. He got a lot of lay-ups off our pressure offense or transition, and he can also run the floor well.”
White ended up leading all scorers with 30 points (including all four of the winners’ 3-pointers) to go along with those 12 assists and seven rebounds. Walrath scored a career-high 24 points and had six boards. CHS big man Tom Wilk, who Lowie noted was defended well by the hosts on Cortland’s high pick-and-roll, still wound up with 16 points and had nine rebounds as the winners owned the boards 38-24.
“Kaywon Pittman was steady with eight points and six rebounds, more than half of the rebounds late in the game,” Lowie said. “Derek Allen played good defense on their point guard, Dan Ruffrage, holding him to eight points, and also helped us break the press. Dan Leonard played good defense off the bench and hit a big basket for us in the fourth quarter.”
On the strength of their early point blitz, the Purple Tigers led 26-7 at the end of the first quarter and actually never trailed in the contest. “We knew they weren’t going down without a fight,” Lowie said. “They picked up the intensity and played harder, but we still had guys open.”
It took Notre Dame a while to actually fight back into contention, as CHS led 42-31 at halftime and was still up by nine, 57-48, entering the final stanza. That’s when the hosts made their charge.
“(Beck) Dangler hit a long-range 3-pointer for them, and (Kendrick) Pollard started to take over the game,” Lowie said. “We knew that whenever he got the ball he was going to the basket, which helped us, but still, most times we weren’t able to stop him. He hit a 3-pointer with three minutes left to get them to within four, at 72-68, but the kids did a great job of holding their composure. They still had the attitude of looking to score, and did a lot of good passing to find the open man and break the press, getting good shots almost every time.
“They only used six men the whole game, and were getting free throws to stop the clock. We started the game in a zone defense, went man-to-man halfway through the second and the entire third and switched back to zone the last four minutes to force them to shoot from outside and keep the clock going.”
Pollard had nine of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, while Dangler had 10 of his 20. White and Walrath did most of CHS’s fourth-quarter scoring with 12 and eight points, respectively. White was 6-of-8 from the foul line in the final stanza.
With the win, Cortland, now 15-6, advanced to a Class A semifinal game with second-seeded Indian River at 8:15 p.m. Friday at Syracuse University’s Manley Field House. The Warriors improved to 19-3 by holding off No. 7 East Syracuse-Minoa 63-57 Tuesday night.




Spartans knock off CHS girls

Staff Writer

An offensive adjustment and two big plays by one New Hartford player helped end the Cortland High girls’ basketball team’s season in a 56-50 Section 3 Class A quarterfinal loss Tuesday night at Shafer Gym.
The fourth-seeded Purple Tigers trailed the No. 5 Spartans 32-24 at halftime. That is when CHS coach Dick Penoyer — whose team closed its season at 15-7 — switched defenses from a 2-3 zone in the second quarter to a 1-3-1 in the third quarter.
Cortland limited the visitors to only six points in the stanza while scoring 12 to close to within two, 38-36, with a quarter left to play.
That’s when New Hartford coach Mike Callan made a big offensive switch.
“He moved both of his 3-point shooters to the same side near the end of the third quarter, and we had to go back to a 2-3 (against which the Spartans had scored 19 points in the second quarter), Penoyer said. “Then we went back to man-to-man.”
The hosts had started the game in a man-to-man defense — it was 13-13 after one quarter of play — but foul trouble, most notably three fouls on both junior point guard Shannon Finucane and senior forward Natalie Khazzaka (who fouled out in the game’s waning moments), necessitated the switch to a 2-3.
One of those two 3-point shooters for New Hartford, junior guard Dominique Carcone, had a big defensive play before nailing a huge trey that pretty much cemented thee game. Cortland had all the momentum going its way when Finucane was decked on an intentional foul and hit the second of two free throws to tie the game at 44-44 with 3:31 left, the first time the hosts had been even in the contest since it was 15-15 early in the second quarter.
Carcone then stole a pass and dished the ball to teammate Stephanie Furgal for a layup that gave the visitors the lead back — as it turned out, for good — at 46-44. After New Hartford’s other deep threat, junior guard Nicole Karam, hit from behind the line to make it 49-44 Spartans with 2:06 left, Cortland junior forward Amanda Lawlor was fouled and hit two free throws to make it 49-46. Carcone, who had 21 points to 24 for Karam, then buried a 3-pointer from the left elbow with 1:15 left to make it 52-46, and the teams exchanged a pair of field goals apiece after that.
“We knew we had to make a big stop, or they’d go ahead of us,” said Carcone of her key steal, one of five she made on the night to go along with six assists and her points. “The ball just ended up coming to me. I knew that they’d gone to the right a few times and was ready. I was able to get open for the 3-pointer because we worked to move the ball for an open shot and had overloaded to one side. It worked out.”
“We put Karam at the baseline and had Carcone stay wide to make their big girls move out (defensively),” said Callan, whose team was noticeably smaller than the Purple Tigers. “I thought we moved the ball well. We were tentative in the second half but hung in and stayed with them. We stood around and watched in the third quarter, but moved well without the ball in the fourth.
“Nicole had a big game,” he added, Karam leading the winners in rebounds with nine to seven for senior guard Maddie Boyle. “She and Dominique have around 45 3-pointers each this season. Cortland is a good team, and it was an evenly-matched game. Finucane and Lawlor are good players who I’d have on my team any day.”
 “Only two kids scored for each team,” said Penoyer, whose squad got 23 from Finucane and 19 from Lawlor. “We didn’t shoot well in the first half, but did a little better in the second. We didn’t get many fast breaks; they had more than we did. The difference was that they made seven 3-pointers and we made two.
“Shannon played a good game, especially in the last quarter and a half with four fouls, and Amanda had a great game inside,” he added.
The Purple Tigers pulled down 30 rebounds in the contest, led by freshman forward Courtney Tennant with nine, junior forward Deanna Bishop with eight and Lawlor with six. Finucane had four assists.
New Hartford, now 16-6, advanced to a semifinal matchup with top-seeded Syracuse CBA, ranked first in the state among Class A teams. The Brothers improved to 19-1 Tuesday with a 76-48 romp over No. 8 Camden.
As for his squad, Penoyer said: “The kids had a very successful season. They should be proud of themselves. We went 15-7 and only lose one player (Khazzaka, the lone senior). I think that every year we’re getting better as a team. We made the sectional quarterfinals this season, and maybe next year we can keep moving.”