March 5, 2012
Dome bubble bursts on CHS
No. 1-ranked J-D takes Class A title, 66-54
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jonathan Prior (15) of Cortland High gets forced out of bounds at midcourt by Jafar Kinsey (25) of J-D at the Carrier Dome Sunday night. CHS lost 66-54 in the Section 3 Class A finals.
SYRACUSE — Things were looking good for the Cortland High boys’ basketball team near the end of the first quarter of their Section 3 Class A championship game against Jamesville-DeWitt Sunday evening in the Carrier Dome... then the roof caved in.
While the bubble over the Syracuse University facility remained intact, the third-seeded Purple Tigers — who led 15-14 with a minute and a half left in the opening stanza — saw their title hoops come crashing down as the top-seeded Red Rams scored the next 13 points and never looked back.
J-D, in fact, went on what all told was a 28-7 run from that one-point deficit to build a 42-22 halftime lead and cruised to a 66-54 triumph for its fifth straight Class A sectional championship.
The biggest factor in the winners’ success was the play of 6 foot-9 inch senior forward Tyler Cavanaugh, who nailed five 3-pointers — four in the first quarter and one in the second — en route to a 20-point first half. He finished with 25 points, plus 13 rebounds, in just a little over three quarters of play before leaving the game for good with 4:13 left when he fell hard on his left hip after being fouled on a drive to the basket.
Cavanaugh’s play in turn opened things up inside against Cortland’s 2-3 zone for 6-10 senior center Dajuan Coleman, who finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Coleman, who will play for Syracuse University next season and wore orange shoes and orange-trimmed white socks in honor of the Dome, was named tournament MVP. Cavanaugh, bound for Wake Forest, was named to the all-tourney team.
Senior guard Qwuhail Barlow, who was named to the all-tourney team, led the Purple Tigers with 21 points, including three 3-pointers. Senior center Brandon Babcock, also an all-tourney selection, and senior guard Jonathan Prior had 10 points each.
Also named to the Class A all-tourney team were senior Derek German from New Hartford and junior Pat Twiss from Mexico.
“It was just way too much Tyler Cavanaugh in the first half, and Coleman too,” Purple Tigers coach Mick Lowie said, his team concluding a 17-3 season in which all three setbacks were to four-time defending state public school Class A champion J-D. The Red Rams are currently the top-ranked Class A team in the state, and won the previous two encounters against CHS by eight points each.
Having Babcock get into first half foul trouble didn’t help the Purple Tigers, either.
“When they started extending our defense that much, we were in trouble. They got hot and it wasn’t just Cavanaugh, Kinsey also had a couple of threes,” added Lowie, referring to Red Rams sophomore guard Jafar Kinsey. “We got a little bit rattled and very, very impatient, putting up poor shots quickly just to shoot. The second half was more indicative of how we can play and have played most of this season. We were more aggressive going to the basket, and our defense was a bit better.”
WHILE THE WINNERS led by as much as 24 twice — 52-28 and 54-30 — in the second half, Cortland outscored J-D 32-24 over the final two quarters, both coaches finally emptying their benches in the closing seconds, to make for a more respectable final margin.
The outcome was a repeat of last season’s 75-55 title-game win by J-D in Utica.
“We had a plan coming in,” said Red Rams coach Bob McKenney, whose 19-2 squad will take on Section 10 champion Malone Wednesday night at Potsdam State in a first-round state tournament contest. “We wanted to see if Tyler could make some outside shots early and stretch them out. Our other guys were tight (early), and Tyler and Dajuan put them on their shoulders. When we got up, Cortland felt like they had to make some shots and got a little tight.
“We have the utmost respect for Cortland. They have four or five guys who are college players, but we have two guys who are major-college players. Dajuan and Tyler are very gifted, and maybe the fact that they’ve been here (to this stage of the season) so often was a factor.”
Kinsey also scored in double figures for J-D, with 11 points.
“I tried to hit some long-range shots, and it helped that they were putting two or three guys on Dajuan,” said Cavanaugh, who came in averaging 20 points a game. “It felt smooth, and was it was what I needed to do. It wasn’t hard shooting in here because we’ve played in some other big arenas, though not just like this. Experience was a plus for me. Ever since I was a freshman and got pulled up for the post-season we’ve won. When I was a sophomore I was young but ready to play.
“My hip is just sore. I’ll go to the doctor tomorrow.”
“Tonight,” corrected McKenney, who when asked earlier about Cavanaugh’s injury noted that “We’ll say a prayer.”
“I guess their game plan was to double- and triple-team me,” Coleman said. “But my teammates stepped up and spread them out. Tyler worked hard and hit those threes, which was huge. It definitely freed me up.
“This was little bit of a statement for us. The first two games Cortland stayed in it with us. We worked hard in practice all week, focusing on controlling this game.”
WHILE CHS SENIORS Barlow, Babcock and Prior all scored in double figures, senior forward J.P. Reagan had eight rebounds, junior forward Brian Hughes seven and both Prior and Babcock five for CHS — which was out-boarded 39-33. Reagan had a team-high four assists.
Cortland turned the ball over 11 times, one more than J-D.
“We felt we could beat J-D, if everything went the right way,” said Lowie, who was honored in post-game ceremonies as Section 3 Class A Coach of the Year for the third straight season. “They’re the best team in Central New York, in any class, and we’ve benefited from it. It happens that they’re in our league, our division and our class. We’re second in line. Any other time and place and we’d be sectional champs and maybe make it to Glens Falls. We’ve seen the teams that J-D has ahead of them to get there, and we’d have had a good chance.
“We had a great season and lost only to a great team. I’m very, very pleased. We had a nice group of seniors.”
Cortland has gone 37-5 over the last two seasons, and Lowie noted “four of those five losses were to the best team in the state and the other, last season, to Syracuse CBA, which was pretty strong.”
As for his Coach of the Year honors, Lowie said: “It’s not my fault. It’s these kids and the assistant coaches. The kids make all the coaches look good. They’re easy to coach, great kids and they work hard.”
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