November 18, 2009
Dandy debuts for Red Dragons
Piperato, Laing lead rout of Elmira
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Miranda Lustig (14) catches a pass in the paint against Elmira’s Chelsey Kent in the first half of Tuesday’s season opener at Corey Gymnaisum.
It took one half of basketball for SUNY Cortland women to click into gear in this season opener.
By dominating play after intermission, the Red Dragons spurted away for a lopsided 66-37 victory over visiting Elmira College to get the 2009-10 campaign underway Tuesday night at Corey Gymnasium.
On the other hand, it did not take very long for sophomore Jamie Piperato to prove more than worthy of her first starting assignment in a Red Dragon uniform.
The six-foot center out of North Rockland High School scored eight of Cortland’s opening 14 points to put the Red Dragons in front for keeps. She finished with 15 points, a handful of rebounds, came up with a couple of steals and blocked a shot — pretty nice numbers for a player who scored just 46 points during her rookie season when she averaged five minutes of court time per contest.
That performance went along nicely with senior forward Jessica Laing’s team high 18 points and 12 rebounds, while the Red Dragon defense held the visitors — including former Cortland High all-league performer Amanda Lawlor — to just 23 percent shooting for the evening.
Lawlor was among those Golden Eagles who struggled offensively, connecting on just 2-of-9 shots with seven of those misses from 3-point range. She finished with six points and six rebounds coming off the bench for Coach Shannon Howley.
Cortland coach Jeannette Mosher wanted Piperato to get physically stronger between her freshman and sophomore seasons, and she certainly responded to that challenge.
“You don’t even want to know,” said Piperato of the work that went into her debut in the starting lineup for a Cortland team coming off a stellar 24-5 season. “I lifted every day over the summer and worked on my game over the summer for the team. It was all about the team this summer.”
“She’s very coach-able, that’s the thing, too,” said Coach Mosher of her new starting center. “You tell her to do something and she’s going to do it the next time, make an effort. Obviously, it’s a good start to her starting.”
SOPHOMORE GUARDS Allyson Biordi and Micki Volpini were making their first start together, too, for Cortland. They became more comfortable in their roles as the game unfolded.
“It seemed like in the first half we played pretty nervous with all of our returners out there and I thought we could have been a little more aggressive in the first half,” said Coach Mosher, though Cortland held a 31-21 advantage at the break. Holding Elmira (0-1) scoreless for a five-minute stretch certainly helped, Laing and Piperato responsible for 18 of the 31 points Cortland scored.
“We made a conscious effort in the second half to get up on them and create some offense from that, and that obviously worked,” Mosher added.
Piperato scored the opening five points of the second half when Cortland went on an 11-2 run. When Biordi and Laing capped off that success with drives to the basket, the Red Dragon lead had swelled to 42-23. The lead grew to 33 points on a couple of occasions.
Over the opening 15 minutes of the second half, Elmira scored just seven points.
Junior forward Jennifer Patten added eight points and four rebounds for Cortland, while junior Jen Polan and senior captain Miranda Lustig provided sparks off the bench. Polan had seven points and four rebounds, while Lustig hustled her way to six points and rive rebounds while picking up a pair of assists.
“I think it was a lot of jitterbugs and getting used to each other,” said Piperato of Cortland’s opening half. “I mean, you go game-speed in practice but when you go against someone else it’s a whole different ball game. We definitely got it together in the second half. We focused on the things we needed to focus on, like rebounding and pushing the ball, and we got the job done.”
THIS WAS NOT the homecoming Lawlor envisioned having, the sophomore back after being at Elmira for only one semester a year ago.
“I was excited to come out and play here in front of a lot of my coaches in high school,” said Lawlor, Purple Tigers head coach Dick Penoyer among those spectators. “We knew what we had to do and we didn’t compete well enough.”
Having senior point guard Alysha Giarra out due to illness did not help the Elmira cause. No one for the Soaring Eagles scored in double figures, guard Chelsea Kent the team’s high scorer with eight points.
“Our point guard was out sick and so there was a transition. We were trying to put some other guards at the point and it didn’t work out for us,” said Lawlor.
This would be Cortland’s night, starting with Laing being honored before the contest for becoming the school’s all-time scoring leader last season in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
“We were so anxious and excited, we just played a little nervous, but thank goodness we rebounded in the second half and pulled away from them and did the things we needed to do,” summed up Coach Mosher, whose team heads to the Kean Tipoff Tournament in New Jersey this weekend with Ithaca College the opening opponent Saturday. “It’s the first game so there’s still a lot of things we have to work on.”
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