November 22, 2006
O’Heron Tourney tips off season
Trojans seek new direction
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Homer Central’s Tristan Hartnett (21) is a senior co-captain for a Trojans team that will face Groton in the opening round of the O’Heron Tournament Friday.
Looking to get turn the fortunes of the basketball program around, Homer Central has returned to a familiar face from the past for the 2006-07 season.
Jim Luchsinger, who coached the Trojan boys from 1977-82 and guided Homer to the OHSL Central Division crown in the 1979-80 season, will step back into the head coaching spot. Including that 19-2 championship year, Luchsinger is only one of two Trojan hoop coaches with a winning career record.
Trojan teams since that season have also posted just three seasons of .500 or better win-loss records, the last being a 10-10 mark during the 1992-93 season.
Homer will open the new season Friday in the first round of the O’Heron Invitational Tournament at SUNY Cortland. Homer will face Groton in the 6 p.m. game. The Trojans will face either league rival Cortland or Marathon Saturday before playing as an independent for the rest of the campaign.
“We are just looking to make a fresh start,” said Luchsinger.
“Our goal is to try a turn the corner and put Homer basketball back on the positive side in terms of the win-loss record. I am not the kind of guy who makes predictions on what our record will be.”
“Things are looking alright at this point,” Luchsinger added. “The kids are really working hard. There are a number of returning players and their goal is to make positive strides.”
Heading the list of returning players are senior co-captains Tristan Hartnett and Joe May. Both stand at 6-foot-2, with Hartnett a swingman (guard-forward) while May is listed as a forward. Hartnett was the leading scorer for the Trojans a year ago with May the number-three scorer.
Also returning for the 2006-07 season are senior Steve Schillo (6-0, swingman), junior Mike Carboine (6-6, center), sophomore Paul Armideo (5-8, guard) and senior Jake Andrews (6-1, forward). Carboine was number-two on the scoring list in 2005-2006.
Moving up from the junior varsity ranks are junior Franco Giordano (6-1, swingman), junior Talon Sprouse (6-0, swingman) and junior Adam Darr (6-9, center). Sprouse was the leading scorer for the Trojan JVs last season.
There are also three new faces on the Trojan varsity roster this season. They include junior Derrick McCall (6-5, forward), senior Paul Fedele (5-9, point guard) and senior Jon Morrison (6-1, forward).
“Jon Morrison has not played basketball since ninth grade,” said Luchsinger. “He is a very hard worker, who is a good inside player. Jon really enjoys playing and is a great example of what we are trying to instill in our basketball program.”
Another veteran coach is stepping into the JV head coaching spot as former Marathon varsity coach Chip Stewart will bring his experience to the younger Trojans. Rich Barnes (eighth-grade) and Nick Patriarco (seventh-grade) coaching the junior high squads.
“There is a good young nucleus on the JV squad,” said Luchsinger. “Coach Stewart is looking forward to the season. He really has a coachable, athletic group of kids.”
As for the style of play to 2006-07 Trojans will show, Coach Luchsinger said this, “There is a lot of energy from this group. Many of these guys have had success in other sports and are trying to bring that to the basketball program. We are still really looking for our identity as a team.”
“We will not be a run-and-gun team, but we will look to take advantage of any situation where the numbers are in our favor,” Luchsinger added. “We want to be able to put points on the board this season. We also will look to play good defense. You cannot stop teams from scoring these days, but you can try to control how effective they are.”
After the tournament, Homer will travel to DeRuyter on Tuesday. Jayvee action tips off at 5:30 p.m. with the varsity game to follow.
Cortland boys have new look
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Cortland High senior guard Joel White will be key to Purple Tigers fortunes this season. CHS will play Marathon Friday at the O’HeronTournament.
The Cortland High boys’ basketball team will have a new look this season.
“Our biggest concern is that the players who graduated after last season had the large majority of our 3-pointers,” said Purple Tigers coach Mick Lowie, whose team opens its season against Marathon at 7:45 p.m. Friday in the first round of the O’Heron Tournament at SUNY Cortland’s Corey Gymnasium. “If we have a weakness, it’s perimeter shooting. Filling those shoes is going to be a little difficult. For the first time in a long time we don’t have a lot of guards.
“The good news is that we’re going to be very strong inside, led by Tom Wilk,” he added, referring to Cortland’ s 6-foot-8 senior center. “He played about half of each game last season and did very well combining with Mike McDonald. And he does have a perimeter game. In fact, he could be one of our best perimeter shooters. He’s a scorer, and we’ve got some things designed to get him away from the basket, which will allow us to do things we couldn’t before.”
CHS sank a total of 110 shots from 3-point range last season, when it went 11-3 in OHSL Freedom Division play and wound up 17-4 overall after a first-round sectional Class A loss to Phoenix. A total of 79 of those treys marched down the aisle on graduation day in the persons of Sean Finucane (team-high 39), Andrew Forker (24), Jeff VanGorder (14) and Don Jenney (2). Finucane, a second-team all-leaguer at guard, was team’s second-leading scorer with 12.7 points per game and second in assists with 71. Graduated center McDonald was the third-leading scorer and top rebounder.
The top returnee is 6-2 senior guard Joel White, a first-teamer last year and team MVP. He was the leader in scoring (13.3), assists (103) and steals (84) as well as the second-leading rebounder (145) and 3-point shooter (22). “We’re glad to get Joel back,” Lowie said with the kind of laugh that tells you he means what he says. “He’s grown a little bit and filled out. He’s going to have a very, very good season.
“He’ll control things for us. He’s the team leader and everybody knows it. He’ll do the bulk of the ball-handling, and since he’s a pretty good shooter we’re trying to get him to shoot more from outside. He’ll add to our ability to go inside if they come out to guard him. He’s going to be fun to watch.”
Of 6-3 junior forward Levi Walrath, who scored 2.8 points a game and was fifth in rebounding with_56 last season, Lowie said: “We’ll use him in the four (power forward) spot this season. He was a pleasant_surprise, has grown and is a_good jumper.”
Kaywon Pittman, a six-foot senior, will be a shooting forward who has some varsity experience. “He’s another capable shooter who we’ll try to get out from the basket more,” said Lowie.
Also back are 6-1 senior forward Dan Leonard, 6-2 senior forward Jack Wood, 5-9 senior guard Jay Hartnett and 5-10 junior guard Derek Allen.
“Dan is a strong rebounder who always seems to be around the basket,” Lowie said. “He can shoot a little, and always seems to get himself open. Jack was playing and shooting well at the end of last season and will be like Jeff VanGorder, in that we can put him in and he can bang a three in for us; he also finds a way to get open.
“Jay is scrappy and seemed to make something happen every time he went in last year, and Derek got to play against Joel, Forker and Finucane all the time in practice and has been improving,” he added. “We’re happy with what we’ve seen from him so far. He’s worked hard and is a good shooter from outside.”
Lowie noted that the veterans will have to carry the load until the new players are able to contribute. White, Pittman and Jay Hartnett are the captains this season.
The newcomers this year are juniors Matt Pitcher (6-5 center), Chad Abbey (6-5 forward), Mike Hartnett (5-9 guard, Jay’s brother) and Jason Hogan (6-2 forward), plus sophomores Will Fickenscher (6-1 forward) and Tim Becker (6-0 guard). Pitcher sat out last season due to a football injury and the others are up from the junior varsity except for Becker, who was on the freshman team last season.
“Matt continues to get better, and is just starting to get his basketball legs,” Lowie said. “He’s tough inside; you can’t move him. He’s a tough rebounder and gives us a guy to spell Wilk. Will has been doing very well. He’s a decent shooter, big and strong, who we have working on the wings, and is a strong defensive player. Mike is a good hustling kid and a quick learner, the same as Tim, who’s very, very athletic and a good shooter.
“Jason smart and picks things up quickly, and also runs the floor well,” he added. “Chad played center for the JVs, but we’re going to put him out away from the basket. He can shoot too, but defense is his strength.”
The Purple Tigers now have an extended goal of winning all three tournaments they’re in, instead of just two. As in addition to the O’Heron and their own holiday event they will also compete in the Oneida Tournament Jan. 13 and 14.
“Our tournament is the most challenging it has been, with Ithaca, Chenango Forks and Maine-Endwell,” Lowie said. “We play Central Square in the first round of the Oneida Tournament, which also includes East-Syracuse-Minoa as well as Oneida.”
Another CHS goal will be to extend the school-record string of 10 straight winning seasons after the new standard, which extended back to the 1996-97 squad, was set last season. “The kids certainly have the opportunity to extend that, certainly, and it’s one of our goals,” Lowie said. Making sectionals, also an annual goal for Cortland, would obviously follow.
The ES-M squad is a league foe for Cortland, and according to Lowie will be strong along with Mexico and Fulton. He noted, however, that, “Jamesville-DeWitt is far and away the top team in the league. I’m not sure who comes close. They have everybody back. Chittenango has some kids back, and Phoenix lost a lot.
“Homer is a non-leaguer for us, but they’ll be better this season. Jim (Luchsinger, the Trojans’ new coach) knows the game, and he’s going to have them playing defense. They’ve got some people back, too.”
In an unusual schedule quirk, the Purple Tigers will only have two home games (Jan. 9 against Fulton and Feb. 9 against Phoenix) the rest of the regular season after their holiday tournament. “I’ve never had a schedule quite like this,” Lowie said. “Most of our home games are early, which is when you should struggle, and then we go on the road when we’re playing our best, so that’s OK. But that month is a long haul without being at home, and we have some tough games in that away stretch.”
Rick Miller will assist Lowie again this season, as will newcomer Justin Teter, with Steve Franco on something of a hiatus due to other commitments. Lowie noted Franco will still help out some. Head coach Yale Hughes and assistant Tom Neugebauer will again handle the junior varsity, with Jim Brown the freshman coach, Jeff Lacey coaching the eighth-grade squad and Dave Beams in charge of the seventh-graders.
Champions to be crowned Saturday
The seventh annual O’Heron Basketball Tournament offers local teams the opportunity to fine tune their play prior to upcoming league contests as well as work off calories gained from Thanksgiving Day feasting.
Cortland High boys and Newfield High girls will out to defend their titles when the tournament is held Friday and Saturday at Corey Gymnasium, located upstairs at the SUNY Cortland PER Center.
Cortland High, Homer and Groton boys and girls will be in action. Marathon boys fill out the field along with Newfield’s girls in this holiday battle for local bragging rights. It will be the season-opening game for every team involved.
The O’Heron Tournament gets underway on Friday at 1 p.m. when Homer Central girls take on Groton Central at 1 p.m. That will be followed by a rematch of last year’s title game when Cortland and Newfield girls clash at 2:45 p.m.
Friday’s losers will play a third place consolation contest at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. The girls’ champion will be crowned in a 11:45 p.m. title tilt on Saturday.
The boys’ first round games will be held Friday night, starting with Homer and Groton meeting at 6 p.m. CHS and Marathon play the 7:45 p.m. nightcap.
Friday’s first round losers will be in the 2 p.m. consolation contest on Tuesday. At 3:45 p.m., the title game concludes the tournament.
A most valuable player will be named, along with an all-tournament team, chosen by a tournament committee at the conclusion of each title game on Saturday.
The tournament is named for the late and beloved Father Edward O’Heron, who ran the Newman Center on the SUNY Cortland campus at the time of his death.
Homer’s WXHC radio will broadcast the boys’ first round games on Friday night, as well as the boys’ title game on Saturday afternoon. Tim Guido will be the play-by-play voice, with Yale Hughes providing the color commentary.