March 1, 2008
Red Dragons hold on!
Laing reaches milestone in semifinal playoff escape
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Jessica Laing (11) became the first sophomore to surpass 1,000 career points in Friday’s 67-65 playoff win over Oneonta.
BROCKPORT — That was a huge sigh of relief coming from the SUNY Cortland women’s basketball team Friday night.
Ahead by 10 points with just over three minutes left to play in their SUNY Athletic Conference semifinal outing, the Red Dragons would not score again and barely survived while holding off Oneonta for a 67-65 victory.
Jessica Laing scored 22 points and became the first sophomore in school history to score 1,000 career points as the defending champions escaped at Tuttle North Gymnasium on the SUNY Brockport campus.
The second seeded Red Dragons (22-5) will face top seed Brockport (23-4) this afternoon in the 4 p.m. championship game on the same floor. An automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament is on the line.
Cortland will make its ninth SUNYAC championship game appearance in head coach Jeannette Yeoman’s 10-year tenure.
Brockport pulled out a 76-68 overtime victory over third seed New Paltz (19-8) in the second half of Friday’s semifinal twin bill at Tuttle North.
Laing entered the game 19 points shy of 1,000 and became the 15th player in program history to reach the plateau when she stole a pass at half court in the second half and was fouled on a fast-break lay-up attempt. She hit the first of two free throws with 6:33 remaining to reach the milestone.
The forward is the first sophomore at Cortland to score 1,000 points and the second player to reach the mark in two seasons. Becky Burkley scored 1,056 points in her junior and senior seasons from 1981-83 after transferring to Cortland from Thiel College.
Laing also pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds and dished out three assists as Cortland beat Oneonta (19-8) for the third time this season. She made 3-of-5 3-pointers and all five of her free throws.
Junior guard Maggie Byrne made a key defensive play in the final moments, hit 4-of-8 shot from 3-point range for the second straight game and finished with 14 points in the victory. Red Dragon junior forward Ali Canale finished with 12 points, on 6-of-10 shooting, and seven rebounds.
Shannon Weir and Christi Podgorski led Oneonta with 13 points apiece. Podgorski came off the bench and was a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor with three three-pointers.
Casey Snyder was another hot-shooting reserve for the third seeds, making 6-of-8 shots in a 12-point performance. Mary Kate O’Connell finished with eight points, seven rebounds and three steals in the loss.
NEITHER TEAM led by more than six points in the first half, with Cortland taking a 34-31 edge into the halftime break.
Oneonta held a 46-45 lead after a Snyder jumper with 10:59 left in the game, but a Canale lay-up and 3-pointers by Byrne and Laing gave Cortland a seven-point cushion with 8:19 left.
When Laing scored career points 1,000 and 1,001 from the free throw line, Cortland held a 59-50 lead. The margin grew to as much as 10 points at 67-57 on a Byrne trey with 3:23 left.
Those were Cortland’s final points, however.
Oneonta’s O’Connell made a free throw with 2:57 left and Weir sank a 3-pointer with 2:16 on the clock. An O’Connell offensive rebound and lay-up drew Oneonta within 67-63 with 1:34 left and, following a Cortland turnover, Weir made a lay-up with 47 seconds left to close the deficit to two.
Cortland turned the ball over on a traveling call with 19 seconds left. Oneonta drove for a potential tying basket, but Byrne forced a jump ball and turnover with four seconds left.
Cortland missed a free throw, but following a timeout, Oneonta was able to only get a desperation 3-pointer from near half court. That shot was well off the mark.
Now Cortland gets a rematch with Brockport, looking to avenge an 84-76 loss to the Golden Eagles back on Feb. 5 at Tuttle North. The Red Dragons led for most of the game in that earlier meeting before Brockport pulled away in the late going.
Senior Ashley Broadhurst led the Brockport win over New Paltz. She cored 21 points, including 18 in the second half and overtime, and connected on five free-throws in the final 20 seconds.
With the victory, the Golden Eagles improve to 23-4 overall. The 23 wins is a new Brockport school record for wins in a season, passing the 22 wins set one year ago.
Brenlyn Campbell added 20 points for Brockport, while Courtney Hines added 15 points and a career high 13 rebounds.
New Paltz’s Artie Williams led the Hawks with 21 points and 21 rebounds, falling just one short of the SUNYAC tournament record for rebounds in a game.
OSWEGO MEN pulled off a semifinal playoff upset Friday to begin Final Four play in Plattsburgh, beating second seed Brockport 87-23 as guard Nick Perioli scored 24 points and Tommy Downing 23. Sherod Harris led Brockport with 23 points.
Defending champion Plattsburgh rallied to beat Geneseo 65-57 in the second game. The Cardinals will face Oswego at 4 p.m. this afternoon looking for a third straight playoff title and an NCAA tournament spot.
Anthony Williams had 25 points and seven rebounds for Plattsburgh. Geneseo, which beat Cortland in the quarterfinals this past Tuesday, got 13-point games from Tarik Kitson, Jeff Howe and Joe Kling. Guard Scott Morton had 12 points and nine assists.
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