February 21, 2012
Streaking Red Dragons hosting playoff opener
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jesse Winter (12) of SUNY Cortland is the team’s leading scorer heading into tonight’s conference playoff game against Plattsburgh.
SUNY Cortland men will go streaking into the post-season.
The Red Dragons have won five straight games prior to tonight’s 7 p.m. hosting of Plattsburgh in a SUNY Athletic Conference basketball quarterfinal round game. Coach Tom Spanbauer’s squad has also been victorious in 11 of their last 13 contests — with both of those losses to regular season champion and top playoff seed Oswego.
“Our guys just stick together,” said Spanbauer of his Red Dragons, whose offensive balance and overall depth were key components to finishing second in the SUNYAC standings with a 14-4 record. Cortland is 18-6 overall.
“Their chemistry is great and they work hard. They’ve accepted their roles and that’s one of the reasons they are where they are,” he added. “It’s a credit all to them. It’s all at the player’s level. The good stuff going on is being initiated at the player’s level and they’ve bought into each other. It’s really exciting. For me it’s fun to really be fortunate enough to coach the group as they are now.”
Junior point guard Jesse Winter (14.9), junior sixth man Brian Manning (13.4) and junior guard Jeremy Smith (11.8) are the leading Red Dragon scorers heading into the playoffs. Winter scored a career-high 36 points in last Saturday’s 105-102 overtime win over Buffalo State to surpass 1,000 career points, and tops the team with 98 assists.
Versatile junior Harrison Hefele is scoring at a 9.5 points per game clip, while 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Kevin McMahon has been coming on strong of late at forward and scores seven points per game. Dan Sternkopf, the 6-foot-9 starting junior center, has a team high 47 blocks to lead the defense.
Cortland defeated seventh-seed Plattsburgh twice in the regular season, by 75-66 and 65-58 margins. The Cardinals (6-12 SUNYAC, 8-17) are led by 6-foot-6 sophomore Shavar Fields (13.8) and sophomore John Perez (12.4), while they have a couple of 3-point shooting threats in senior Junghoon Roh (79 treys) and Shamoy McIntosh (75).
There is an admission fee to night’s contest, with a discount for students. SUNY Cortland students, faculty and staff will be admitted free of charge with valid school ID courtesy of the SUNY Cortland Athletics Department.
The Cortland-Plattsburgh winner will play either Fredonia or Geneseo in the semifinals Friday, with the site and time to be determined based on the quarterfinal results. The top remaining seed will host the Final Four on Friday and Saturday.
Cortland is making its 23rd SUNYAC tournament appearance in the last 24 years. The Red Dragons won the league crown in 2000 and finished second in 1997, 1999 and 2001.
CORTLAND WOMEN are on the road to get the SUNYAC playoffs underway, the fifth-seeded Red Dragons (15-10) taking on fourth-seed Geneseo (16-9) at 6 p.m. this evening in the quarterfinal round.
The two squads split regular season outings, Geneseo a 75-63 overtime winner at home on Dec. 6 before Cortland got 75-66 revenge at Corey Gymnasium on Jan. 7.
Senior guards Brittany Cohen and Molly Byrne are the top Cortland scorers heading into post-season play. Cohen tops the team averaging 15.2 points and 5.3 assists per contest, while sharpshooter Byrne scored 10.3 points per game. Byrne recently made eight 3-pointers in a loss to Oneonta.
Cortland is making its 18th consecutive appearance in the SUNYAC tournament. In the past 13 seasons, the Red Dragons have reached the finals 10 times and captured the title on seven occasions. The last playoff crown came two seasons ago. The Red Dragons have advanced to the semifinals in every year since 1996.
Geneseo is the defending champion, though regular season champion Buffalo State is the top-seed heading into this year’s playoffs. The Bengals are fresh off a 73-67 victory at Cortland this past Saturday.
If Buffalo State beats Fredonia in quarterfinal round play tonight, it will get to host the Final Four on Friday and Saturday. The SUNYAC men’s and women’s playoff champion earns an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament.
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