February 27, 2008


Byrne return sparks Red Dragons

Women trip Lakers, move into semifinals


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Jennifer Polan (24) drives to the basket against Oswego’s Sam Driscoll in the first half at Corey Gymnasium, where the Red Dragons rolled to a 72-56 win in the SUNYAC quarterfinals.

Sports Editor

There were just over four minutes left to play when Maggie Byrne completed this triumphant return to the basketball court, hitting a 3-point shot from the top of the key to put SUNY Cortland women ahead by 28 points.
Though the junior guard had not played in the last 10 games after suffering severe injuries to both of her wrists, though the 5-foot-4 sparkplug had only one practice heading into this SUNY Athletic Conference quarterfinal round playoff game against Oswego, it seemed like old times at Corey Gymnasium Tuesday night.
Byrne scored 16 points, including making four of her eight shots launched from beyond the 3-point arc. She came up with three steals and picked up a pair of assists, too, as the second seeded Red Dragons rolled past seventh seed Oswego with relative 72-56 ease.
With Byrne back in the starting line-up, the 21-5 defending conference champions have another weapon to take into Final Four play that starts up Friday in Brockport. The grand prize for the playoff winner is an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament.
Cortland will meet Oneonta in a 6 p.m. semifinal contest Friday, followed by top seed Brockport taking on third seed New Paltz at 8 o’clock. The title game is set for 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Red Dragons, six-time SUNYAC playoff champions, have been in the finals in eight of the past nine seasons.
“We have the momentum back and I think we can go all the way again,” said Byrne in the glow of victory. “It stinks we won’t be home, but we will have to cut down the nets in someone else’s gym.”
Senior forward Sara Cavanaugh was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line and led all scorers with 19 points, junior forward Jessica Laing added 14 points and 15 rebounds and junior guard Kristin Ciccone finished with eight points and four steals in this post-season success.
Forward Ali Canale added five points, five rebounds and three blocked shots to the victory, while freshmen Jennifer Polan (six points, four assists) and Jennifer Patten (four points) were both productive off the bench in Coach Jeannette Yeoman’s seven-player rotation.
But despite this solid team effort, Byrne’s performance drew most of the rave reviews.
“WE STRUGGLED a little bit without her, but she was playing just as well as she did before her injury. You could tell the difference,” said Cavanaugh, the lone senior on this Cortland club.
“At times she showed she hadn’t played in the last 10 games, but she shook off the rust and did a great job for us,” said Coach Yeoman.
“It felt great,” said Byrne, who was injured taking a fall during a loss at Geneseo back on Jan. 29. “It took a little while to warm up, but then it felt good. I was a little nervous, but once I shook that I felt pretty good.”
Since the injury, Byrne had tried to stay in shape running on the treadmill and doing sprints in the gymnasium. Still, she didn’t know what to expect returning to a game situation but said: “Once I got into the flow of the game, I wasn’t tired at all.”
Oswego was looking to reach the finals for a fourth consecutive season. Senior Sam Driscoll, a Whitney Point graduate, finished with 14 points and senior Sarah Lombard 11 for the Lakers, who finish 14-11 including a regular season 14-point loss earlier in Cortland.
The Lakers held a 19-12 first half lead when the Red Dragons went on a 24-2 scoring spurt in just over six minutes of play that Oswego could not stop despite three timeouts used by first year head coach Tracy Bruno. That spurt concluded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Cavanaugh and Byrne, and Laing scoring from close range off a nifty assist by frosh Polan. That put Cortland up 37-21, and it was 37-23 for the hosts heading into halftime.
Byrne provided a 10-point and 3-steal spark in 18 minutes of first half work, though everyone would cringe on the occasions when she crashed to the Corey Gymnasium hardwood.
OSWEGO DID GET to within 58-41 in the second half, but Cavanaugh, Laing and Ciccone made six straight free throws, Byrne threw in her late 3-pointer and Coach Yeoman could empty the bench. After a Polan trey had Cortland ahead 72-45 with just over two minutes left to play, Oswego made the final score more respectable scoring the game’s final 11 points.
“In college basketball, 40 minutes is a long time so we have to do a better job getting the most out of each possession,” was one worry Yeoman voiced heading into the semifinals, along with Oswgo’s 47-43 rebounding edge. “We know we can beat anyone and we know anyone can beat us, so we have to get out there and earn these wins.”
“We know we’re a good team,” said all-time school scoring leader Cavanaugh, looking for a stellar conclusion to her career in Cortland. “We have to pick it up and play well, because it’s do or die now. I told them (her teammates) before the game I was not about to let this be my last game.”




Geneseo holds off Cortland comeback

Sports Editor
Some might think a couple of crucial second half scoreless stretches doomed SUNY Cortland men in this frustrating playoff setback.
But Coach Tom Spanbauer pointed to another area that really hurt his Red Dragons in a 63-60 loss to Geneseo in Tuesday evening’s SUNY Athletic Conference quarterfinal round basketball match-up.
“More importantly, we didn’t do the things you have to do to win in the playoffs, and that’s play defense,” said Spanbauer, citing the fact the visiting Knights shot 59 percent from the floor in the second half at Corey Gymnasium.
Leading by a narrow 32-30 margin after a briskly played opening half that featured eight ties and seven lead changes, Cortland scoring droughts produced second half deficits of 10 and nine points. On both occasions, thanks to a flurry of 3-point shots, the Red Dragons scrambled back into contention.
Senior forward Mike Jankiewicz’s 3-pointer with 1:16 left to play — his fourth connection from long range and the 10th trey of the evening made by the Red Dragons — had Cortland within striking distance down 62-60.
After a timeout, the Red Dragons then forced a turnover when Geneseo could not inbounds the basketball in the allotted five seconds. But a bank shot taken by driving Cortland sophomore Will Coston failed to fall moments later.
Geneseo was then able to work time off the clock in the final minute when the Red Dragons came up with one big defensive stop as guard Joe Kling had to force up a shot in heavy traffic. But in the ensuing scramble on the floor for the rebound, when it appeared guard Mark Schaller had forced a jump ball with the possession arrow in Cortland’s favor, a foul was called against the Red Dragons.
Senior Kling made the first shot of that 1-and-1 free throw situation with 13.5 seconds left but missed the second, leaving the door open for the Red Dragons down three points. But after calling a timeout with 8.9 ticks on the clock to plot a bid to force overtime, Cortland never got a good 3-point look at the basket.
“We made the stop and had the tie-up,” insisted Spanbauer of that crucial foul call that went against the Red Dragons.
Both teams are now 19-7 on the season, but only fifth seed Geneseo advances after avenging a regular season 64-60 home court loss to the fourth seeded Red Dragons. Geneseo will take a five-game winning streak into Friday’s semifinal game against Final Four host and top seed Plattsburgh.