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February 24, 2010

 

Marshall 3-point perfection in playoff win —

Red Dragons moving on

Basketball

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Ben Nagle of SUNY Cortland reaches for a rebound against Fredonia’s Julius Bryant in Tuesday’s quarterfinal playoff game. The Red Dragons won 70-60 at Corey Gym.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

As SUNY Cortland junior offensive spark-plug Dusty Marshall suggested, “Maybe we’re coming back around the corner.”
The SUNY Athletic Conference basketball playoffs would certainly be the ideal time to get things perking once again for the Red Dragons after some late-season stumbling, and Cortland is certainly capable of reeling off a couple of more victories at this weekend’s Final Four festivities.
The third seeds were certainly clicking during Tuesday night’s start to post-season play, Marshall making all six of his shots from 3-point range during a 25-point outburst that was a vital part of the Red Dragons’ 70-60 win over sixth-seeded Fredonia State in a quarterfinal round match-up.
Freshman point guard Jesse Winter added 17 points with no turnovers during his 36-minutes of court time, sophomore Brian Manning was a steady 10-point contributor while latching onto a team-high seven rebounds and the Red Dragons are off to the Final Four being hosted by regular season champion Plattsburgh.
With all four higher seeds prevailing last night, Friday’s semifinal pairings have Cortland (16-10) taking on second-seed Oneonta (21-5) at 6 p.m. to be followed by top-seed Plattsburgh (18-7) facing fourth-seed Brockport (16-10) at 8 p.m. The title game is Saturday afternoon at 4 o’clock in Plattsburgh.
There is no clear-cut favorite for the title, with the additional prize for the survivor being a trip to the NCAA Division III tournament.
After three consecutive late-season losses knocked the Red Dragons out of contention for a regular season conference title, Coach Tom Spanbauer’s club now has back-to-back wins over Fredonia to provide some playoff momentum. Cortland beat the Blue Devils 56-60 in Fredonia this past Saturday in a regular season finale prior to last night’s rematch.
“Actually, coach kind of put it to us in the most simplest way the other day,” said Marshall of Cortland’s playoff capabilities. “He said besides New Paltz we’ve beaten every team in the conference. So it’s not that we can’t beat them, it’s just that now we have to.”
“Anytime you win in the playoffs it’s a good win,” said Coach Spanbauer after beating Fredonia for the third time this season. “Forget the seeds. You can’t look at the seeds in our league, because it’s more match-ups than seeds, but the fact we were able to execute our offense in the second half was really positive.”
CORTLAND NEVER trailed after Marshall’s initial trey a minute and 15 seconds into the game countered an opening basket by Fredonia big man Kyle Mitchell.
A 43-point second half Cortland scoring spree kept the Blue Devils (11-14) at bay at Corey Gymnasium. The Red Dragons shot 54 percent from the floor over those final 20 minutes, and were 9-of-17 from beyond the 3-point arc for the game with Marshall’s perfect sniping leading the way.
“Without a doubt,” said Winter of being able to shoot better at home, the rookie floor general 5-for-7 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the free throw line. “We’ve had like 75 practices here, so I hope I shoot better in this gym. Dusty was feeling it, and hopefully he’ll feel it throughout the playoffs because we’ll need him.”
Newfield native Marshall had a trio of early 3-pointers and when senior center Paul Oliver scored off a lob pass inside the Red Dragons were up 21-10. But Fredonia —who got 18 points from solid forward Julius Bryant, a dozen from guard Amir Billups and 10 from the 6-foot-6 Mitchell — battled back to be within 27-23 at the halftime breather.
“I thought in the second half, our start and finish were just outstanding,” said Spanbauer. “We came out and hit some big shots. We thought that would be the key for us to make them play from behind, because they’re such a deliberate team.
“If we could get a seven or eight point lead it puts a little more pressure on them to attack, and we were able to do that,” he added.
Marshall opened the second half with his fourth 3-pointer and Winter had a pair of treys, the second corner bomb off a Marshall assist, to put Cortland ahead 40-27 with 16:18 left to play.
Fredonia recovered, and when Bryant hit a jumper in the lane leading to a Blue Devils timeout with 6:27 left to play the Cortland lead was a perilous 51-47.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” said Winter. “It’s a game of runs, so we kept our heads in it, kept our composure and just played hard throughout the game, which is what we needed.”
MANNING RATTLED in a jump shot off an in-bounds play shortly after that Fredonia timeout and then rebounded a missed Billups 3-pointer. Winter then finished off a nice drive to the basket and Cortland was on its way. Making 8-of-10 free throws late to go along with a Manning steal leading to a Marshall breakaway layup — Marshall’s only two-point field goal in the contest — helped protect the lead.
Cortland was 17-of-21 from the line for the game, which was another good sign.
“A big key was we played smart, kept our heads,” said Winter. “We did what we had to do. We hit free throws, ran our plays all the way through and kept our composure.”
“It was a real good effort by the guys. That’s a tough team to play against. They’re big and they’re big at the basket and they bothered us,” said Spanbauer, though the Oliver (six points, four rebounds), classmate Ben Nagle (seven points, five rebounds) and junior Chris Milke (three rebounds, two blocked shots) battled well against Fredonia’s front-liners.
Cortland held a slight 32-31 rebounding edge. Bryant had eight boards for Fredonia, the Blue Devils blocking a half-dozen Cortland shots.
“We just had to stick to our game plan,” said Marshall of how Cortland moved on. “When that happens and we play good aggressive defense, I think there’s no one in the league who can stop us. But that’s just my opinion.”
An opinion Marshall and the Red Dragons hope becomes fact this weekend.