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February 23, 2008

 

Red Dragon rally comes up short

Dragons

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Juan Miolan (34) drives past Plattsburgh defender Ricky Rider (23) in the first half of Friday’s conference showdown at Corey Gym. First place Plattsburgh escaped with 56-53 victory.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

To pull off this difficult task, SUNY Cortland men had to be at their basketball best Friday night.
Instead, shooting woes ended up costing the Red Dragons a chance to knock off nationally ranked Plattsburgh as the Cardinals held off a late charge to come away with a 56-53 SUNY Athletic Conference victory.
“It’s hard to win a basketball game when you shoot the ball so poorly,” said head coach Tom Spanbauer after his Red Dragons made just 29 percent of their shots from the floor and went 8-for-14 from the free throw line on their Corey Gymnasium home floor.
Though junior forward Carson Niehoff came off the bench to drop in a game high 19 points, no other Red Dragon finished in double figures. Niehoff’s off-balance and well-guarded attempt at a late 3-pointer to force overtime caught the rim and bounded away.
“We don’t get nearly the credit we deserve for playing good defense,” said Plattsburgh coach Tom Curle after this talented team wrapped up the home court advantage throughout the upcoming conference playoffs. “People just see we score a lot of points and have a lot of athletic kids. Not only are we a good defensive team, we’re a good rebounding team, too. We would not be in the position we are in if we didn’t play good defense.”
Where the Cardinals are right now is pretty impressive stuff.
The SUNYAC East Division regular season champions are 15-0 in conference play, 22-2 overall and winners of 15 straight games. The Cardinals, ranked 11th nationally in Division III, can finish undefeated in the conference with a win in Utica over SUNYIT today. They will be favored to capture a third straight conference title when playoffs begin with quarterfinal round games Tuesday.
Though leading scorer Anthony Williams was held to 14 points (10 under his average) before fouling out, forward Khylan Hunter finished with 13 points, center Travis Gorham scored 11 points and hauled in 15 rebounds and guard Antwane Miller made the decisive free throws with 18.7 seconds left to play for the victors.
What do those four Cardinals have in common? They’re all seniors.
“We’ve had many games like this. We’ve been challenged all year,” said Curle, Cortland coming back from a 14-point second half deficit to make things interesting. “At the end of a game, there are seniors out there and they know what pressure is because we’ve been the playoff champions the past two years.”
Cortland seniors — point guards Derrick Fish and Mark Schaller and back-up big men Quentin Merritt and Joe Sargent — will take their final Corey Gymnasium bows this afternoon when Potsdam visits to conclude the regular season. Game time is 4 p.m.
The Red Dragons, secure in second place behind Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC East Division standings, are 11-4 in the conference and 18-6 overall heading into that regular season finale.
CORTLAND HAD its chances despite falling behind for good with some late first half scoring woes. Sophomore Will Coston created defensive havoc with four steals and tossed in eight points off the bench, while sophomore big man Mike Lewis scored all eight of his points during a Red Dragon second half revival.
“They’re too good of a team for us not to capitalize in those situations where we got the ball where we wanted to go and could not finalize when we got the shots we wanted,” said Cortland’s Spanbauer.
The Red Dragons led 18-15 when Niehoff made a 3-pointer off a Fish drive and dish with just over seven minutes left in the opening half. Cortland scored a lone basket over the final seven minutes — a short shot sank by Mike Jankiewicz after grabbing an offensive rebound — and Plattsburgh took a 26-20 lead into halftime even with Williams sitting for a spell with foul woes.
Cortland big men Lewis and Paul Oliver went scoreless over those opening 20 minutes.
Starting with a floater in the lane, Gorham — the 6-foot-6 glass cleaner who ended up in the distant northeast corner of the state from Bridgeport, Conn. — sparked an 11-3 Plattsburgh run to open the second half. With 11:09 left to play, the Cardinals lead seemed comfy at 44-30.
Plattsburgh went the next six-plus minutes without a point, however, and Cortland crawled back into the game.
The Cardinals were still up 51-42 with 2:14 left to play when Lewis almost finished off a three-point play (missing the free throw after being fouled inside scoring off an Oliver assist) and Niehoff made a long 3-pointer with 1:13 _remaining.
The Plattsburgh lead trimmed to 51-47, Niehoff appeared to have blocked a lay-up attempt by Hunt moments late only to have a foul called. Senior forward Hunt canned both charity stripe chances.
BUT NIEHOFF MADE two free throws after a drive as Williams fouled out of the game, Plattsburgh missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Niehoff finished off another drive and the Red Dragons called their last timeout down 53-51 with 37 seconds left.
Plattsburgh’s Gorham made the second of two free throws four second later and Cortland’s Niehoff was fouled again going to the basket. The junior made both freebies and Cortland was within 54-53 with 19.7 seconds on the Corey clock.
That’s when Miller calmly made two free throws after being hacked receiving the inbound pass. Cortland tried to shake someone free as determined Plattsburgh protected the 3-point arc, Niehoff finally left to force his off-target shot with the clock winding down.
Spanbauer liked the defensive effort that helped get Cortland back into the game, and made things hard for three-time SUNYAC “Player of the Week” Williams. The Plattsburgh guard made just 5-of-20 shots and a lone 3-pointer.
Williams, one of five Cardinals from Brooklyn, wears a sleeve on a right elbow that suffers from bursitis and has had a tender knee drained twice this season. “He plays in pain every game,” said Curle of Williams.
The Red Dragons will enter the playoffs as the fourth seed and will earn a first round home game Tuesday, with a chance to meet Plattsburgh for a third time this season in the semifinals.
“We didn’t do enough of the fundamental basketball things against a team that plays as well as they do,” was how Spanbauer summed up this loss. “Our guys were trying to get after it and we were getting in our own way sometimes because guys were trying so hard.”

 

 

 

Foster runs into final road block

Purple Tiger junior 2nd in Division I

By TANEY BEAUMONT
Staff Writer

CICERO — Dan Foster ran into an old nemesis Friday night at Cicero-North Syracuse during the finals of the 160-pound weight class at the Section 3 Division I wrestling tournament.
The Cortland High junior’s only two losses of the season in 44 matches coming into the title bout had been to Fulton senior Matt Bogardus, who he faced again with a spot on the sectional team in the state tournament at stake.
Bogardus, who won the sectional Division 1 crown at 152 pounds last season and then was fifth at the state meet, made it three-for-three against his younger foe. The Red Raider scored a 23-8 technical fall in a match that was stopped with 22 seconds left when the 15-point margin was reached.
Bogardus, who was named MVP of the tournament, is now 50-1 on the season and earns a trip to the states being held March 8-9 in Rochester.
“I really didn’t care about the score. I just wanted to go as hard as I could,” Foster said. “The two times before were closer, but tonight I wanted to go all out and try my hardest to win instead of stalling. I lost by more, but tried harder.”
Bogardus had beaten Foster by eight-point margins in their two previous meetings, including winning a 9-1 decision in last Saturday’s Class A final at 160-points.
To get to the finals, Foster first pinned Andrew Giormini of Baldwinsville in 2:59 in the quarterfinals and then scored a 5-2 decision over Oswego’s Jeremy Linn in the semifinals.
Foster, who first took up the sport while in sixth grade, has been a varsity wrestler the past three seasons and has a career record of 104-27 with 40 pins.
“I’m really grateful for how much I’ve improved over the time I’ve been at Cortland. All of the credit goes to the coaches,” he said, referring to head man Dave Darrow and assistant Joe Nicholas. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have been here.”