March 8, 2010
CHS girls top New Hartford for Class A crown —
Purple Tigers champs!
UTICA — The purple and white grabbed some blue and yellow Saturday night... as in the colors of the strip to go on one of the school’s Section 3 championship banners.
The Cortland High girls’ basketball team beat New Hartford 57-42 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium to win the 2010 Class A sectional championship, the first ever for the program.
“I thought we played well,” Purple Tigers coach Dick Penoyer said, his second-seeded club now 17-3 on the season heading into Tuesday’s 6 p.m. state regional contest at Cicero-North Syracuse against Section 2’s Averill Park.
“It wasn’t our best game of the year, but we did a decent job. We wanted to speed up the pace of the game,” he added. “The big court was good for us, because we like to run. We were worried about breaking their zone defense, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that. But we never really could pull away until the end, when they went to a man-to-man and had to foul us.”
The eighth-seeded Spartans did keep it close most of the way. They trailed by just three, 22-19, at halftime and were down by 29-27 with 3:11 left in the third before CHS went on an 11-2 run to close out the quarter.
Four of those points came from tournament MVP Courtney Tennant, the senior forward finishing with a game-high 26 — including a pair of 3-pointers — to go along with 13 rebounds, four blocked shots and two assists. Sophomore guard Maggie Brown, who also made the all-tourney squad, finished with 18 points (with one trey), including three points in the fateful stretch, to go along with 12 rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Brown also keyed an important second-quarter run by the winners, scoring seven straight points as Cortland moved from a 15-14 lead to a 22-14 advantage. That followed a 6-0 New Hartford run that in turn came after starting junior forward Nacirema Mann was forced to leave the game after picking up her third foul. Mann avoided further fouls in the contest and ended up with eight points, all in the second half, plus five rebounds and a pair of steals.
All told, the winners had a 37-22 rebounding advantage in the contest, which helped them to keep game at the fast pace they wanted. It was Tennant who finally doused the Spartans’ hopes for good, nailing her second 3-pointer with 1:16 left to make it 53-42 for the Purple Tigers.
“When it was 29-27, right there and then Cortland went ‘boom,’” said New Hartford coach Mike Callan, whose team finished the season 14-8 after upsetting top-seeded Whitesboro 41-38 and No. 5 Carthage 50-42 to make the championship game. “Tennant hits a shot (to make it 33-27 after senior guard Aubrey VanGorder scored the first two points of the run), they steal the ball and we foul them, then we’re battling upstream. We just don’t have the physicality to match them.
“And when Tennant steps out and hits a couple of threes...what are we going to do? The best team won tonight, and we wish them the best. But at least we made them sweat a little,” he added.
“WE HAVE SIX seniors on this team, and we all really wanted it,” said Tennant, a team co-captain who along with VanGorder is classmates with forwards Maggie Reagan and Christine Gutchess (the other co-captain, inactive due to a knee injury) and guards Morgan VanGorder (Aubrey’s cousin) and Rheanna Bates. “We know as a team that we’re nice and strong, and that if we play our best we’re pretty unbeatable. With the bigger court, our conditioning definitely helped us. We weren’t tired at the end and they were sucking wind.
“Our strength is our speed, and to be able to run the court and finish was valuable. We talked at halftime about how we were supposed to be here,” she added of the second seeds, who previously ousted Nottingham 53-50 and Jamesville-DeWitt 52-35 in the tournament. “They called New Hartford the Cinderella team, but they really weren’t. They come from a strong league, and if they weren’t playing us they probably would have won. We’re so in sync that we all know where each other are.”
“We just wanted to win so bad, to make history for the school,” Brown said. “We’d do anything to win. We started out the game being off a little, but once we started going to the basket shots started falling. We knew if we played a good game that we were going to win; we met some tough competition in New Hartford, but we were ready.”
Sophomore guard Ashley Chanatry led the Spartans with 16 points (including two 3-pointers), nine rebounds and six steals and was also named to the all-tournament team, while classmate Theano Alvanos, also a guard, had 11 points (one 3-pointer) and seven assists. Callan had only three seniors on his 13-player roster this season, one of whom started and was the only upperclassman among the team’s top seven players.
“They’re young, but that’s a good team,” Penoyer said of New Hartford. “I don’t know that I want to play them next year.”
“They have a young team, and next year and after they’ll be a force to be reckoned with,” Tennant said.
“WITH OUR YOUNG team, and the way the game was going, I sat there and said ‘OK,’” Callan said. “The last three weeks of extra practice will help in the long run. We’ll be back. I’m proud of the kids, and we’ll see what happens next year.”
Joining Tennant, Brown and Chanatry on the all-tournament team were senior guard Alyssa Gratien from Jamesville-DeWitt and Carthage senior forward-center Sarah Johnson.
Cortland is ranked 10th in the state among Class A schools heading into Tuesday’s contest with Averill Park. The Warriors sit atop the state Class A poll and whipped Holy Names, ranked second in the state, 55-36 in Saturday afternoon’s Section 2 title game. Both teams are now 20-1 on the season.
“They’re very fast and are ranked first in the state, but I think we can beat them,” Penoyer said. “We’re not going up there (to C-NS) not to.”
“Their record, to us, doesn’t mean much,” Tennant said. “We easily could have been 19-1 this season, but lost two tough ones in a row (after Gutchess was injured). And the rankings don’t matter.” Brown agreed, noting that “We’re not too worried about rankings. We’ll give them a good game.”
— Admission to the sectional contest is $7.
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