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February 24, 2016

Oneonta rallies to dump Dragons

bballBob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland guard Caysea Cohen drives around Teresa Anken of Oneonta Tuesday in the conference playoffs. Though Cohen scored 27 points, Cortland fell 68-58.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Seemingly on the verge of cruising into the conference semifinals, second half scoring woes doomed the SUNY Cortland women’s basketball team Tuesday night.
The host and fourth-seeded Red Dragons had a 14-point halftime lead vanish over the final 20 minutes at Corey Gymnasium, where fifth-seeded Oneonta rallied to prevail 68-58 in the quarterfinal round of the SUNY Athletic Conference playoffs.
Though senior guard Caysea Cohen came up with a 27-point performance, which also featured team-highs of nine rebounds and four assists, Cortland’s season came crashing to an end. The Red Dragons were done in by shooting just 27 percent from the floor after intermission, when Oneonta out-scored Cortland by a substantial 47-23 margin.
Both teams had matching 17-9 overall records when the evening concluded, though only Oneonta will be moving on to a Friday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal date with top-seed and ‘Final Four’ host New Paltz.
“I think we got out of rhythm in the second half, sometimes dribbling too much and not recognizing what they’re in (defensively),” said Coach Jeannette Mosher of her Cortland squad, which had split home court wins against Oneonta during the regular season prior to making the school’s 22nd consecutive appearance in the conference playoffs.
“It could be a combination of things, but the bottom line is they did not go in,” Mosher added of Cortland’s wayward shots after having built a 35-21 halftime lead on the strength of some 7-for-14 accuracy from beyond the 3-point arc. “That allowed them time to get hot. They really reversed it on us.”
“Like coach said, we played a great 20 minutes and kind of forgot the rest,” said Cohen upon departing the premises. “It killed us only scoring five in the third quarter and from that they had all the momentum and we didn’t.”
Actually, Cortland scored seven points in that third quarter but still fell behind 43-42 when Oneonta closed out that stanza getting back-to-back 3-pointers from senior spark-plug Lyteshia Price and freshman Teresa Anken.
ONEONTA OPENED THE fourth quarter going on an 8-2 run, capped by a Price three-point play slicing to the basket, and the visitors were ahead for keeps. Cortland got no closer than six points over the final five minutes.
Price finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds, back-up 6-foot-1 center Caitlin Cariseo scored nine of her 16 points in the fourth quarter to help thwart any Cortland comeback plans, Cara Adams shot 4-for-9 from 3-point range to provide a 12-point spark off the bench and rookie Anken finished with 10 points and 11 boards.
“Probably one of my favorite teams that I’ve ever coached,” said Daphne Thompson, who is in her ninth campaign at Oneonta and has been in the coaching business for 24 seasons. “They just trust and they believe and they support each other. One of the things I’ve said all along, they’re just a team. We have our star (in Price), but they all play so well together.”
In a turnover-marred first quarter (Cortland with nine turnovers to Oneonta’s eight), Cortland seemed in take control after falling behind 6-zip early when Price and point guard Samantha Lisikatos hit early 3-pointers for the visitors. Cortland scored the next 12 points including a pair of 3-pointers by junior guard Cassidy Chapko.
Oneonta recovered and trailed just 15-14 at the end of the quarter. But Cortland opened the second quarter going on a 15-2 run, starting with a Kristy Vitucci 3-pointer and a three-point play by Cohen after cutting to the basket and getting a pass from Chapko.
When Chapko and Cohen swished consecutive treys, followed by a Cohen put-back on the offensive boards, Cortland was up 30-16 with 3:40 left in the opening half. Cohen capped the half with her third 3-pointer with 14 seconds to go to build that 35-21 advantage.
“They were doing a great job of getting us pulled out of our zone and being able to rotate us,” said Coach Thompson of Cortland’s early success against an Oneonta defensive scheme meant to deter 3-point shooters.
SWITCHING THINGS AROUND on defense finally helped Oneonta finally slow down the Cortland attack.
“We change defenses constantly and it depends on your team whether you can do that or not,” said Thompson of her Oneonta squad. “If you don’t have players who understand the game you can’t change much, so this year we were able to start right from the get-go changing defenses.”
Chapko finished with 13 points for Cortland, just four coming after the halftime break. No one else reached double figures, Vitucci next best with six points while starting center Alyssa Crosby had five points.
The Red Dragons were just 1-for-15 shooting treys in the second half, too.
Cortland had closed the regular season winning five of its final six games — the lone loss 63-55 at Oneonta — despite concluding without injured starters Jennifer Deuel and Stephanie Rice available.
“There were times when we really needed a good defensive possession we were just a stop too late, a step slow,” said Coach Mosher. “Could it have been fatigue? Yeah, but you have eight minutes maybe left in your season. You can’t think about those things.
“Those are the things you hope your returning players will keep in mind and they’ll be more mentally tougher next year,” added Mosher, as Cohen and Shannon White (who just returned from a season-long injury) are the lone seniors departing. “You have to execute and you have to play when you’re tired. You have to do that if you want to win championships.”
WHILE MOSHER IS optimistic about Cortland’s future, work towards next season will take a respite for now. “We need some time off to let the kids rest and recover... and be normal,” she says.
“These student-athletes are not normal, they’re not,” the coach added. “What we ask them to do and what they are doing is not normal. They’re doing a lot. I think at Cortland we’re lucky because they’re very good ambassadors for us, because they make us look good and do us proud.”

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