February 23, 2012
Brown sets scoring mark in comeback win
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Maggie Brown (right) celebrates Wednesday’s 43-35 victory over New Hartford in the Section 3 Class A semifinals last night in Chittenango, as New Hartford’s Alexis Jackson (3) walks off the court.
CHITTENANGO — A happy Cortland High girls’ basketball coach Dick Penoyer noted that two birds were killed with one stone Wednesday night at Chittenango High.
“We made the sectional championship game, and Maggie Brown became the leading scorer in the program’s history,” Penoyer said with a smile before taking a bite out of a post-game cupcake.
One had a lot to do with the other, as senior Brown again took over late, scoring 12 of her 26 points in the fourth quarter as the third-seeded Purple Tigers, ranked 21st in the state in Class A, rallied to beat No. 2 New Hartford 43-35 in a Section 3 Class A semifinal contest.
Her point total enabled Brown to increase her five-season point total to 1,494, eclipsing the old mark of 1,492 held by Amy Sherry since 1991.
For the record, the first of two free throws the senior guard made with 27.8 seconds left to close out the scoring in the game was the magic point. It was originally thought that Brown needed 23 points for the record, but a miscredited basket in an earlier game was discovered and that pushed the target total to 25.
Penoyer also pointed out that there was another important factor in the win, which pushed his team’s record to 17-3 heading into the 8 p.m. March 1 title game at the Carrier Dome against the winner of today’s 6 p.m. semi, also at Chittenango, between top-ranked Jamesville-DeWitt and No. 4 Carthage.
“The key to this win was defense,” he stated flatly. “Our man-to-man defense has been that way the last three games, and is absolutely stifling to other teams. We have five, six, or seven kids who we can play in it; what’s gotten into them, I have no idea.”
The realization that their season was one thing that might have motivated the Purple Tigers, trailed 31-25 with 1:07 left in the third quarter before going on a 14-0 run during which they held the Spartans scoreless from that point until 2:45 remained in the game, a stretch of 6:22. Brown scored 11 of those 14 points.
After a New Hartford basket with 1:39 left — the only points the Utica-area squad scored in the game’s final 9:07 — Brown hit four free throws down the stretch to account for the final score.
“The whole game we played better defense than offense, and it helped us win,” Brown said. “We pushed it up on offense and were able to get some lay-ups. The coaches (Penoyer and assistant Ron Hulslander) had it down pat. They’d scouted New Hartford and told us who did what and what we needed to do.”
“THEY TRIED TO take Maggie out of her game,” Penoyer said of the New Hartford game plan. “We gave her the opportunity to take over, but give the other kids credit. Without our defense we wouldn’t have won. Julie Babjack did a good job on their point guard (senior Theano Alvanos), and we also did a pretty good job on their top scorer, Ashley Chanatry, holding her to six points. We didn’t let them dribble drive, and tried to close out their 3-pointers.Babjack and Lizi Torti did a good job of handling the ball. New Hartford didn’t count on that.
“We were able to steal the ball for some easy transition baskets, and I think they got tired at the end of the third through the rest of the game. Our kids were in better condition, and credit coach Hulslander with that. He makes sure the kids are in condition,” he added.
“We played horrible,” said Spartans coach Mike Callan, his team, ranked 16th in the state in Class A, having closed out a 16-4 season, led in scoring by sophomore guard-forward Amy Evans with 15 points. “We went 0-for-9 from the foul line in the third and fourth quarters, and you won’t win doing that.
“Maggie is great. She stepped it up like we knew she would, and we wish her and her teammates the best. But we beat ourselves,” added Callan. “There were too many unforced turnovers and bad mistakes. We didn’t play very well, and they took advantage of it.”
Another key area of the game was rebounding, as the Purple Tigers hauled down 50 caroms, led by Brown with 14 and junior forward Devon Tennant with nine. In addition, junior forward Amanda DeGraff had seven boards, senior guard Torti six and eighth-grade guard Jackie Phillips five.“We had a big height advantage,” Tennant said. The key was to get inside and go up strong, and get some second-chance points. It’s like an adrenaline rush out there. Maggie and I have been to the finals (CHS beating the Spartans 57-42 two years ago), and we tried to impart that to the other girls from the very beginning, especially with Maggie being a senior.”
Wednesday actually marked the third post-season game between the two teams in as many years, the Spartans claiming a 51-42 semifinal win last winter.
BROWN ALSO HAD had six steals this time around while Babjack had three.
“Defense and steals were important for us, plus hustling and running the court,” junior guard Babjack said. “On offense it’s all about passing the ball. Maggie is our best ball-handler and when we help her play well it helps us all out. It was also important to spread things out and get the ball downcourt.”
Brown scored the first two points of the game 25 seconds in before New Hartford scored the next six. It was 12-12 after one quarter, but Evans scored seven of her points in the second as the Spartans, despite going scoreless for a stretch of 4:39, still had a 21-18 halftime lead. Babjack hit from the left corner 22 seconds into the third quarter to make it a one-point game, but New Hartford then scored the next seven points to go up 27-20, a huge lead relative to how the contest was playing out.
Cortland still trailed, 31-27, heading into the fourth but the Spartans would miss their next 14 shots — and have two starters foul out — before a lay-up by senior forward Chanatry with 2:45 left ended the drought.
From there, Brown took over.
“I didn’t think I had that many points,” she said of the climactic ending. “ I looked up (at the scoreboard) before shooting two free throws, saw that I needed one point and put it in. At the beginning of the year I thought I could do it, but I tried not to think about it. I thought about winning, and (the points) just came.”
CHS ended up outscoring the Spartans 16-4 in the fourth.
THE PURPLE TIGERS lost twice to Jamesville-DeWitt (43-39 at home on Dec. 13 and 49-29 on the road Jan. 31) and didn’t play Carthage this season.
“Maybe the third time playing them would be the charm,” Brown said of the Red Rams. “We’ll have to practice hard, but I think we could do it. But we’ll play anybody, and it will be fun to go to the Dome.”
“Jamesville-DeWitt has talented girls, but it’s hard to beat a team three times,” Tennant said. “If they win (tonight), we’re coming for them.”
Babjack, meanwhile, said “ I don’t have a preference who we play, but it would be fun to play Jamesville-DeWitt again because they’re our rival.”
“I don’t care who wins,” Penoyer said of the J-D game with Carthage. “We’re going to scout the game, and we already know enough about J-D and they know enough about us. The Dome is going to be tough on players’ depth perception; I don’t imagine it will be a high-scoring game.”
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