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February 23, 2013

 

Final destination for Red Dragons

Reach today’s title game by topping Oswego

BasketballJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Kevin McMahon (50) attempts a baby hook shot over a SUNY Oswego defender in the first half Friday night at Corey Gym.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

After advancing into the conference championship game, SUNY Cortland senior point guard Jesse Winter was simply stating the obvious.
“We have shooters,” said the school’s all-time scoring leader after the top-seeded Red Dragons upended Oswego 65-54 in Friday night’s SUNY Athletic Conference semifinal basketball playoff contest. Those Cortland shooters swished a dozen 3-point shots to continue this pursuit of the school’s first title since the 1999-2000 season.
“If you choose to play zone, it’s pick your poison. Who are you going to go out to?” added Winter. “Credit us, though, because guys made some big plays and guys hit some big shots.”
Working against Oswego’s zone defense, Winter scored a game-high 18 points including four 3-pointers, fellow guard Jeremy Smith had 17 points on 4-for-6 shooting from beyond the arc and senior forward Brian Manning tossed in 11 points on 3-for-5 long-range accuracy.
Overall as a team, the Red Dragons shot 51 percent on their Corey Gymnasium home floor — where they have won all 11 of their games in this successful season that has produced 22 wins against just four losses. Cortland was 12-of-25 shooting treys and never trailed after overcoming an early 7-2 deficit.
The regular season champion and top-seed Red Dragons, ranked 25th nationally in Division III, have now won 14 of their last 15 games. The lone loss during this stretch came just last weekend when Plattsburgh was an 80-77 victor up in the north country.
Cortland will seek to avenge that stumble in this afternoon’s 4 p.m. title game, taking on a second-seeded Plattsburgh (19-7) squad that opened this Corey Gymnasium semifinal twin bill with a 77-67 win over Geneseo.
“That’s a good team, we’re a good team. It should be a good game,” said Smith of the Cortland-Plattsburgh title match-up. “It helps that they just beat us, because we’re a little angry about that. It comes down to who wants it more. We all know each other, we all know how each other plays. It’s just a matter of who wants it more.”
CORTLAND BEAT DEFENDING champion Oswego for the third time this season.
Senior forward Hayden Ward finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, while Dan Ross added 12 points off the bench. Two other Oswego seniors — guard Sean Michele and forward Chris Gilkes — had 10 and nine points, respectively.
After two previous losses to Cortland, including a humbling 78-46 blowout just two weeks ago at Corey Gym, Oswego coach Jason Leone hoped to slow the Red Dragons down switching to a 2-3 zone defense.
“We had played them twice and man-to-man was friendly to us, so I think he (Coach Leone) decided to try and change his game plan,” said Cortland coach Tom Spanbauer, who said it took a bit of time to figure out how to attack the Lakers defense as the Red Dragons’ lead was just 29-28 at halftime.
“We have some shooters. We can put four guys out there who utilize the arc, and obviously we shot 48 percent from the arc,” Spanbauer added. “We took what the defense yielded and the guys executed. Just because a team plays zone and you get looks on the arc, you still have to make them. And our guys stepped up and made some really big shots.”
All three of Manning’s treys came in the opening half, his third connection putting Cortland ahead 23-16 with just under five minutes left in the stanza. But Oswego closed the half out going on a 10-3 run, including turning a late Cortland turnover into a Kyle Covley lay-up at the buzzer to get to within a point.
Winter then connected on a couple of early 3-pointers during a 17-5 Cortland run that opened the second half, and dropped in a floater in the lane at 11:09 to put the hosts ahead 46-33.
When Oswgo had a chance to pull to within 48-40 — only to have Ross miss a chance to finish off a three-point play from the free throw line after scoring on a drive to the basket — Smith came up with consecutive 3-pointers and Cortland was back in control.
“WE WERE SURPRISED at first, but it is what it is,” said Smith of facing the Oswego zone defense, having played all 40 minutes against the Lakers. “We faced a zone last week at Plattsburgh, so we kind of used that game plan the whole game. It slowed us down in the first half, but in the second half we got going. We moved the ball quicker and we got easy shots.”
Junior forward Kevin McMahon provided a nice inside presence, too, with eight points and seven rebounds while senior center Dan Sternkopf scored both of his baskets during that early second half scoring spurt that pretty much settled things.
“One of the goals was to start our offense with the defensive rebound. In order for the offense to start that way we needed to stop them, and there was one stretch there where we really did,” said Spanbauer, as Oswego shot just 29 percent in the second half. “We’re a little bit smaller, but I think our guys showed their grittiness and they really paid attention to the game plan and they executed the game plan really well defensively.”
That will be today’s task, trying to hold down a talented bunch of Cardinals in the title game.
“We’re more of a team that right now just focuses on what we need to do, no matter who we’re playing,” said Spanbauer. “Obviously, the guys will be hungry for the match-up against Plattsburgh, but ultimately we’ll look at what we have to do in order to play well. Once again it’s low turnovers, shoot the ball the way we’ve been shooting it and try to keep the other team in the 30s (in shooting percentage) defensively.”
Plattsburgh 77, Geneseo 67: Kalik Parker came off the bench to score 20 points, including 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point territory, as Plattsburgh won the opening game over the third-seeded Knights.
Geneseo (17-10) battled back from a second half deficit to tie things up at 50-50 midway through the period, only to see the Cardinals respond following a time-out by scoring 11 consecutive points including a well-contested Parker corner trey. The lead hovered around 10 points the rest of the contest.
Jordan Moody added 14 points and Shamoy McIntosh 11 for the Cardinals. A big impact also came from 6-foot-6 junior Reggie Williams, who had eight point points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked four shots.
Geneseo, which trailed just 30-28 at halftime, got 19 points and 12 rebounds from forward Gordon Lyons. Connor Fedge finished with 15 points and Thomas Decker tossed in 12 — Decker’s total all coming on 3-point shots.

 

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