February 24, 2007


Purple Tigers ride on into finals

White triggers upset of Indian River

Purple Tigers

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Kaywon Pittman (15) scores on a fast break after a behind-the-back pass by Joel White (11) in the third quarter against Indian River during Friday’s Section 3 Class A semifinal game at Manley Field House in_Syracuse. CHS won, 58-47.

Staff Writer

SYRACUSE — It’s been a seven-day stretch to remember for the Cortland High boys’ basketball team, and a testament to the motivational power of fear.
Since last Saturday the Purple Tigers, seeded sixth in the Section 3 Class A tournament, have had quite a post-season ride. They stormed back from a late 10-point deficit at home that day to avert an opening-round upset and beat 11th seed Oneida 68-62, then rolled to a 26-7 first-quarter lead on the road Tuesday at No. 3 Utica Notre Dame and went on to oust the Jugglers 80-68.
They capped things off Friday night at Syracuse University’s Manley Field House by scoring 21 of the game’s first 22 points en route to a 58-47 semifinal victory over No. 2 Indian River.
The latter result gave CHS — now 16-6 and winners of its last six games — a return trip to Manley for next weekend’s championship game against No. 4 New Hartford (19-4). New Hartford’s Spartans bumped off No. 1 Jamesville-DeWitt, the top-ranked Class A team in the state, 59-49 in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader.
Cortland coach Mick Lowie, naturally pleased that the ride continues for his squad, knows just how the whole thing started. “With four minutes left against Oneida, they got really scared that the season was over,” he said, recalling that predicament that found CHS down 57-47. “You could see it in their faces — (seniors) Joel White, Kaywon Pittman, Tom Wilk, all of them. And not just the kids on the floor; the ones on the bench, who work hard in practice and help us prepare for out next opponent, are incredible. They’re so supportive it’s ridiculous.”
Those reserves, and the large contingent of Purple Tiger supporters on hand at Manley Friday, had a lot to cheer about, and the lion’s share of the adulation went to White. The 6-2 senior guard hit a school-record eight 3-pointers en route to 36 points, the third best single-game point total ever for a CHS player.
Four of those treys came in the first quarter, as White scored Cortland’s first 15 points. He ended up with 18 in a successful stanza that ended with CHS, which led 21-1 at one point, on the long end of a 23-5 score. Most of it happened with 6-8 senior center Tom Wilk on the bench, having collected two fouls in the first 1:55 of the contest.
“Tom was out with foul trouble, and I came out early and hit a couple of shots,” said White, who also had a team-high eight rebounds, plus six steals and five assists. “They were sagging down (defensively), so I figured I might as well hit some more. I was feeling it, and my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball. This was the best shooting I’ve ever done, and it’s a good time for it. Coach said we needed to get better and play our best game. It was what we needed to do, and we did it.
“We knew we could play with Indian River and beat them,” he said of Cortland’s 19-4 opponent. “The whole thing is that we didn’t want the season to end. After Phoenix (a sluggish 58-54 home win in the regular-season finale) we sat down and said it was make-or-break time. We came back and pulled out the Oneida game, came together and have kept it going.”
White scored the last 10 points in regulation to help CHS forge overtime against Oneida, and ended up with 28 that night. He followed with a 30-point performance against Notre Dame, and in three post-season games has totaled 94 points, or 31.3 a game after averaging 19.1 a contest during the regular season.
“The foul situation took away the inside for us, but we’ve seen Joel do things like he did tonight all season,” Lowie said. “That’s the kind of player he is. Under the circumstances, in this kind of game, with Tom out, he stepped it up.
“He was in a zone, but we knew he wasn’t going to hit 3-pointers forever. In the second quarter it got to the point where I was saying ‘Forget scoring, let’s run the clock and take the lead into halftime so I can get Tom back in.’ We did a good job, especially with him out for that length of time.”
White scored all five of Cortland’s second quarter points as the Warriors scored nine to make it 28-14 at halftime.
After a slow start, Indian River, to its credit, came on in the second half and made a game of it. CHS led 40-29 after three, but the Warriors got to within six, at 45-39, with 5:16 left as junior guard Xavier Jackson scored five of his 11 points to lead the charge.
Then it was time for Wilk to take over, as he scored the next eight Purple Tiger points — six from the foul line — to keep Indian River at bay. The Purple Tiger big man, who wound up with 13 points in all (to go with six rebounds), had picked up his third foul late in the third and his fourth 1:40 into the final period, when he went back to the bench for a short spell before returning to play a big part in the victory.
“We decided in the fourth that we had to put Tom in to score some points,” Lowie said. “That was the game right there. With Tom out, they’d cut our lead to single digits. We went with him figuring that we might lose him to fouls (which didn’t happen), but also that we had to score to keep the lead.”
The Warriors were still within seven, at 54-57, with 1:45 left before, fittingly, White scored the final four points of the game, capping things off with a reverse layup with 33 seconds left that accounted for the final margin.
“We knew coming in that (White) would be the best player we’d seen this season,” Indian River coach Dennis Seitz said. “We, on the other hand, didn’t shoot well. I don’t know that we moved the ball well enough to get good shots. We’d go down and fire them up, instead of passing it around.
“But our offense doesn’t look like that without the other team playing tough defense; give credit to them. They were able to close the gaps and keep us from penetrating. We got inside early and missed a couple of lay-ups, then the kids started looking at each other and stopped going to the basket. We contributed to our own demise somewhat, but their defense was tough in the lane and took away our penetration.”
“We knew there were three critical areas going in,” Lowie said. “We had to stop their transition — they’re faster and quicker — had to stop their dribble penetration, which we did a good job of in the first half, and had to get the ball inside. We went with our usual 2-3 zone, actually a 1-1-3, which we use every time we go against a good point guard.”
“We did a good job holding them to 47 points; only giving up five in the first quarter helps.”
Junior guard Terry Parham led Indian River with 17 points. The Warriors actually out-rebounded Cortland 29-28.
The fact that the game was in a large venue, rather than a typical high school gym, was on the minds of both coaches.
“For the first time ever, I noticed that,” Seitz said. “We seemed to be trying to set up our offense from way outside. Part of it was their zone, but I think our perception was a factor as well.”
“We practiced at Cornell on Thursday to get used to baskets on stanchions with lots of room behind them, rather than suspended with a wall six feet back,” Lowie said. “We put in the Indian River information we had in an hour this morning and the kids picked it up. That’s how attentive they are.
“At the beginning of the season, when we were 2-3, we looked at the schedule as a coaching staff and wondered who we could beat in the league. The kids have shown tremendous improvement over the course of the season. They’ve been very receptive to my suggestions,” added Lowie.
“We don’t want it to end,” White said. “We’re hitting our peak at the right time and coming together as a team. This team has shown a lot of character; the guys are great and have come together beautifully. We’ve stepped it up when we needed to, and are pumped to be here.
“With J-D gone, we knew the road (to the Class A crown) was there for us. New Hartford is one of the toughest teams we’ve seen, and it’s going to be a great game.”
“New Hartford is very athletic and will certainly cause us some matchup problems,” Lowie said. “They get down the floor well; we can’t let them outrun us.
“J-D, which handled us twice this season, didn’t do a lot of the things they normally do tonight, and New Hartford had a whole lot to do with that.”
The date and time of the title game will be announced once all of the sectional finalists have been determined.


Red Dragons get rematch with Lakers in title game

Sports Editor

In post-season basketball play, a little experience can go a long ways.
That was one reason why SUNY Cortland women find themselves in this position once again, playing for the SUNY Athletic Conference playoff title for a second straight season.
These Final Four hosts turned back pesky New Paltz 71-55 Friday night at Cortland’s Corey Gymnasium in a conference semifinal showdown on Friday night. Scoring 15 unanswered points to build an early 18-5 lead made the difference, along with a steady 23-for-27 free throw shooting touch and a lopsided rebounding edge over this smaller yet determined foe.
The top-seeded Red Dragons earned a title game rematch against third-seed Oswego at 4 p.m. this afternoon, with a conference title and an automatic NCAA Division III tournament berth on the line. They will be looking to avenge a loss to the Lakers in last year’s SUNYAC championship game.
Of course, the Red Dragons are accustomed to this. They have reached the title game in eight of the past nine seasons.
“There’s no substitute for experience,” said New Paltz first year head coach Jamie Seward, whose fourth-seeded Hawks were making their first ever appearance in the SUNYAC semifinals.
“We have a lot of young kids and even the seniors on this team have never been this far in the playoffs,” added Seward, who uses six freshmen in his rotation of players. “We weren’t intimidated. They just challenged us to make some shots early and they didn’t go in, and by the time they started to go in it was too hard to climb the hill we had made for ourselves.”
Most of these Red Dragons have been in this playoff situation before, though it was freshman forward Jessica Laing who led Cortland (24-2) to its 38th consecutive victory at Corey Gymnasium. The 5-foot-11 Laing had 20 points and a dozen rebounds, and was a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line.
Red Dragon junior forward Sara Cavanaugh was a 6-for-6 from the stripe during a solid 14-point performance. Sophomore guard Maggie Byrne battled a touch of the flu while adding 12 points including a pair of 2-pointers — the only treys the Red Dragons would make in this game.
Red Dragon coach Jeannette Yeoman hopes to have more success shooting the ball from long range against Oswego, the Lakers coming through with a 66-61 overtime victory over second seed Brockport in the opening game of last night’s semifinal twin bill (see separate story) at Corey.
Yeoman also knows more stellar defensive work will be needed to fulfill championship ambitions. New Paltz shot just 25 percent from the floor and committed 11 turnovers in the opening half, and struggled through a fatal nine-minute scoreless stretch.
“THAT WILL HAVE to be a key tomorrow as well,” said Yeoman of the defensive task at hand. “With Oswego’s inside and outside game, we have to do the same thing on defense. We have to keep our feet moving. They have more weapons than we’ve seen this week.”
Cortland beat eighth seed Potsdam 75-55 on Tuesday in the quarterfinals before this similar win over New Paltz.
The Hawks (17-10) scored on a 3-point shot from Jenny Driscoll on their first position and were ahead 5-3 in the early going before the Red Dragons took over.
Byrne triggered the scoring splurge, including a steal that led to a breakaway lay-up. She provided assists for a Laing 3-point play inside and a fancy Kristin Ciccone reverse lay-up, and hopped in the lane to score from close range to put the Red Dragons ahead 18-5.
Laing had her second three-point play of the half to put Cortland up 23-9 with 6:12 left to play.
Then senior Erin Dabe made her presence felt off the bench as the second half winded down. She scored six straight points for the Red Dragons and came up with a steal before assisting on a fast break basket by Ciccone.
“I’m just trying to do as much as I can, as long as we win,” said Dabe, the 5-foot-9 forward out of Newfield High School who has been a key contributor in recent games. She finished with eight points, four rebounds and a blocked shot.
When Cavanaugh made a pair of free throws to close out the half, Cortland had a 33-15 lead.
And when Laing opened the second half making a pair of free throws after Coach Seward had been hit with a technical foul walking off the court at halftime, the Cortland advantage was 20 points.




Brockport falls in OT to Oswego

After seeing a nine-point second half lead evaporate in the SUNY Athletic Conference women’s basketball playoff semifinals, defending champion Oswego was not all that shaken.
“We have a saying: ‘Overtime is our time.’ I don’t think we have a patent on it or anything,” said Lakers head coach Michelle Collins.
And, actually, the only other time this season Oswego has been pushed past regulation came earlier this month. The Lakers pulled out an overtime victory over Oneonta on that occasion.
Still, OT would prove to be very good for the Lakers as they knocked off Brockport 66-61 Friday evening at Cortland’s Corey Gymnasium.
Junior forward Jessica Collins muscled up a basket a mere 24 seconds into the five-minute OT period before crashing to the floor, senior guard Kelly Mraz netted a 3-pointer from the top of the key moments later and the third seeds were ahead for keeps.
Oswego will face Cortland for the title at 4 p.m. this afternoon. Cortland beat Oswego twice during the regular season, but so did Brockport before this post-season get-together.
And Oswego beat Cortland 61-56 in last year’s playoff title confrontation.
Mraz finished with 14 points to lead Oswego, now 19-7 this season. Junior Samantha Driscoll — last year’s tournament MVP — came off the bench to toss in 12 points including six free throws without a miss, while Lindsey Marquit added 10 points.
Brockport finishes up 20-7, as Brenlyn Campbell had 21 points and Ashley Broadhurst 11. Courtney Hines and Kim Schon added mine points apiece, while Kiomi Matthews pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Golden Eagles were hurt, however, when senior starting guard Katie Marcella injured her knee with 5:29 left in the first half trying to defend an Oswego fast break basket. She tried to start the second half, but lasted all of 22 seconds before crumbling to the floor.
Marcella came into the weekend on the verge of reaching 1,000 career points as a Golden Eagle.
Oswego was in the process of turning a 19-16 deficit into a 30-21 lead when Marcella went down. Mraz made a 3-pointer late in the half to put the Lakers up 34-26 at the break.
Oswego was ahead 41-32 four minutes into the second half when Brockport came back. This game would be deadlocked at 47-47, 48-48, 50-50, 52-52 and 54-54 heading into the final minute.
Both teams missed scoring chances down the stretch, leading to overtime. Brockport was still within 61-59 when Campbell hit a baseline jumper, but the only other points scored by the Golden Eagles the rest of the way were a pair of free throws from Matthews with 40 seconds left to play.
Oswego made enough free throws in the late going — going 5-for-10 — to keep the lead.