March 2, 2011
Beats Oneida to reach Class A title game —
Mission accomplished for CHS
JAMESVILLE — Mission accomplished.
From the first day of practice, Cortland High boys’ basketball coach Mick Lowie noted Tuesday night, one of the Purple Tigers’ collective goals was to compete for the Section 3 Class A championship.
“To compete for it, you have to be in it at the end,” he said, shortly after his top-seeded club made that happen with a 48-39 semifinal round tournament victory over No. 5 Oneida at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.
To earn its spot in Saturday’s 2:45 p.m. title game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium against either second-seeded Jamesville-DeWitt (ranked ninth in the state) or No. 3 Whitesboro, both 16-3 — who meet tonight at Chittenango — Cortland, ranked sixth in the state in Class A, had to hold off a determined Indians squad. Oneida had already dispatched No. 4 New Hartford 59-54 in the quarterfinals after losing to that same team twice during the regular season.
The contest was a rematch of CHS’s 68-53 win in mid-January in the finals of Oneida’s Alliance Bank Tournament, in which the Purple Tigers gained some information that was useful Tuesday.
“Kyle Peck and Ben DeRocker scored a lot of points up there,” Lowie said, sophomore guard Peck with 18 and senior forward DeRocker with 12 in the teams’ first meeting. “We knew that DeRocker was their leading 3-point shooter by far, with 35, and that he drove to his left really well. As soon as he caught the ball we had to be on him and attempt to take away his left hand.
“Peck was something of an outside threat, with six 3-pointers coming in, but we knew did a good job of penetrating and then shooting. We knew that he always went to his right, so we had to take that away and make him go left. We were happy with our defense,” he added. “We held those two down and held them to a total of 39 points. They only scored 18 in the second half, including a pair of bank-shot threes by DeRocker. That’s pretty good second-half defense.”
Peck led Oneida with 10 points, while DeRocker finished with nine.
Oneida, which finished the season at 13-8, did a pretty good job defensively as well, and was able to stay close most of the way, those the Indians led only once, at 7-6. CHS was up 13-10 after one quarter, 23-21 at halftime and 35-31 at the end of three.
CORTLAND, NOW 19-1 with a nine-game winning streak, had a slim 39-36 lead after a basket by Peck with 2:24 left in the game when the winners finally began settling the issue. Junior guard Jonathan Prior started the key stretch by nailing a 3-pointer with 2:04 remaining to make it 42-36, and after a dry spell by both teams converted both ends of a one-and-one with 1:12 left to stretch the advantage to 44-36.
After junior center Brandon Babcock blocked a shot inside by Peck, the Indians began heaving up desperation treys, the only one that was successful, from Peck with 28 seconds left, coming in between four straight free throws by junior forward J.P. Reagan to account for the final tally.
The winners went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line down the stretch, were 8-for-8 overall in the fourth quarter and 12-for-13 for the game.
“It was one of those moments when you know the game was on the line and you have to come up clutch,” Prior, who led CHS with 13 points, said of his key long-range score. “The team swung the ball around well and I got a good shot. I had to make it. The free throws weren’t the most comfortable situation to be in, but again I felt that I had to come up clutch, After I made the three we had gained some momentum.”
Babcock, who was double-teamed the whole game, finished with 12 points (four in the fourth) and Reagan added 10, including two 3-pointers.
“They were playing physical the whole game, and I knew I had to,” said Babcock, who also had 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. “We knew that to get our outside game going we had to get inside first, and I got some great passes inside.”
“Cortland executed and made some big shots down the stretch,” Oneida coach Jeff Didio said. “That’s an outstanding team, well-disciplined, and a deserving top seed. “We tried to prevent their high-low game; we wanted to take that away, and I think for the most part that we did.
“We’ve had a good three weeks at the end of the year and beaten some petty good teams. I’m proud of that.”
Rebounding was another concern of Lowie and his staff coming in. “We knew that would be a big part of the game; they took it to us (34-28) the first game, so we had to stay competitive there,” he said.”They won the boards again tonight, 35-27, but it was only 22-20 in the second half.”
IN ADDITION TO Babcock, senior forward Justin Hogan had six boards (with four assists) and Prior five. No individual stats, other than scoring, were available for the Indians, who also got nine points from senior guard-forward Keith Johnson.
This season’s edition of the Purple Tigers has matched the program’s single-season record of 19 wins, first accomplished by the 1959-60 team that went 19-3 and claimed the Section 4 Class A crown with a 61-60 win over Chenango Valley. That was matched by the 2002-03 squad that finished 19-4 after losing to J-D 74-41 in the Section 3 Class A title game at Syracuse’s Manley Field House.
Saturday’s trip to Utica will be Cortland’s first sectional championship appearance since 2007, a 67-43 loss to New Hartford.
The Purple Tigers already own a win over J-D this season, 55-51 at home on Jan. 28. The Red Rams were without senior forward-guard Demetrius Mitchell for that one.
“We’re well aware of all of J-D’s strengths, if that’s who we play Saturday,” said Coach Lowie. “We know that Mitchell averages 18 points per game, makes their team quicker, gives them better ball-handling and is good on defense. They’re the three-time defending sectional and state Class A champions, and they are until someone beats them.”
“It would be great to see J-D again, to have that challenge,” Prior said. “Who knows who’s going to win in the semis, but with J-D we’ll know what’s coming at us and it will be better for us. But we’re there......mission accomplished.”
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