November 24, 2007
Indians upend defending champs
Groton, Homer advance to title game
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Chad Abbey (32) of Cortland High takes a jumper over Matt Parsons of Groton last night at Corey Gymnasium, where Groton was a 48-45 first round winner at the O’Heron Invitational.
Groton Central boys erased a number of bad memories from past O’Heron Invitational basketball appearances with one very solid performance Friday night at SUNY Cortland’s Corey Gymnasium.
After leading nearly all the first half, the Indians needed to overcome a poor third quarter and rallied for a 48-45 opening round win over five-time champion Cortland High. It is the fifth title game for veteran coach John Filzen, whose team is the only school in the field not to win the Thanksgiving weekend tournament.
This is just the second time that Cortland has not been in the title game.
Groton will meet Homer Central, a 60-46 winner over Marathon in the opening game of the nighttime twin bill. This is the first championship game appearance for the Trojans since they won the inaugural O’Heron Invitational in 2000.
Homer and Groton meet in the championship game that gets underway at 3:45 p.m. today, with Cortland and Marathon meeting in the consolation contest at 2 p.m.
Groton 48, Cortland 45: “We feel very good about this win,” said Filzen. “I like this team because they play hard, together and unselfishly. If we could have made some foul shots, this game would not have been as close.”
Filzen is right about that. Groton made just 12-of-30 free-throw attempts, but the Indians were six-of-eight from the charity stripe in the final 1:21 while clinging to a 45-43 lead.
“Every year we are in this tournament and it is like playing Syracuse (University),” said Filzen. “We are like Binghamton playing Syracuse. Cortland has been rolling and rolling and they have beaten us pretty good. I am very happy for these guys. Now we must get back on focus and get ready to face an improved Homer team.”
“Groton out-competed us in every part of the game,” said Cortland coach Mick Lowie. “We got them for a little stretch with our zone, but they adjusted to it. They out-hustled us to every loose ball. They out-rebounded us to every key rebound. Any hustle play, they beat us to it. That is disappointing to me because we have looked sharper than that in both of our scrimmages.”
Cortland took a 2-0 lead on a jumper by freshman Kevin Shaw (17 points) in the first 20 seconds, but Groton countered with an 11-0 run. Peter Jackson started the run with a three-pointer. Kyle Reed (11 points) followed with a lay-up and Ethan Tilebein netted six of his game-high 24 points. The first quarter ended with Groton on top 13-6.
The two teams played evenly in the second quarter as Groton maintained its advantage and led 24-17 at the break.
After shooting 7-for-22 from the field in the first half, the Purple Tigers were in control the third quarter. Defensively, Cortland held Groton to one field goal and four total points while doubling their own score for a 34-28 lead. Shaw scored eight points and Derek Allen added five points to the Purple Tiger attack.
Groton began its comeback when Josh Betances scored on an offensive rebound. Reed made a steal and driving lay-up that pulled the Indians to within two and Tilebein scored on a driving lay-up in the paint to knot the score at 34-34.
The Indians continued to surge and capped its 15-4 run when Matt Parsons netted his only basket of the a 43-38 lead with 3:50 to go.
Cortland fought back. Will Fickenscher hit two free throws and Shaw buried a trey from the top of the key to even things at 43-43 with 2:20 remaining.
The remaining points for each team came at the free throw line. Reed put Groton in front to stay by hitting the front end of a one-and-one. Tilebein made one free toss and Jackson went two-for-two as the lead grew to 47-43.
After a Cortland timeout, Fickenscher calmly sank two free throws for the Purple Tigers with 22 second left.
With 12 seconds to go, Tilebein made one foul shot, but the Pruple Tigers would have a chance to tie. Shaw missed the tying three-pointer with two seconds left and Reed won the battle for the rebound as the final horn sounded.
Homer 60, Marathon 46: Homer took a 13-12 lead at the end of the first quarter in this evenly played game. The Trojans would continually build five-point to nine-point cushions throughout the middle two quarters, but never pulled away until the fourth quarter.
“These kids have been working so hard for the last two years,” said Homer coach Jim Luchsinger. “The kids that came up from the JVs had a good season last year and you could never fault the effort of any of the guys that played on the varsity team for me last year. These are the things that Chip (Stewart) and I having been working on with these kids and this is the team that we believe can start putting Homer back on the right track in the basketball world.
“Tonight we showed that we have some kids that can play,” Luchsinger added. “We have a team that can compete. Coach Stewart gives us that extra set of eyes. Instead of just two eyes and one guy trying to do it all, we now have four. He takes care of the offensive things and I take care of the defense. We are on the same page. We are having fun together and the kids are having fun together.”
Stephen Birdsall (14 points) made both ends of a one-and-one to pull Marathon to within 46-40 with 5:04 left in the game, but Homer countered with a 10-2 run over the next two minutes for a 56-42 advantage.
Zach Bladen made the first of two free throws for the Trojans. He missed the second, but Mike Carboine (16 points) grabbed the rebound and scored on the putback. After a Marathon miss, Derrick McCall finished off the next Homer possession with a bucket after a pass from Blanden for a 51-40 lead with 4:16 left.
Another Carboine offensive putback after a missed free throw and another deuce by the 6-foot-5 senior center off a pass from Talon Sprouse gave Homer a 56-42 lead one minute later.
The final two Trojan baskets came on steals and subsequent lay-ups by Kane Hartnett and Sprouse in the final 90 seconds.
In addition to Birdsall, Marathon got a game-high 19 points from Chase Wiley.
“Offensively, we were fine,” said Marathon coach Jim Holland after really having just three days of solid practice after sharing 10 players with the soccer team that played in the state finals this past Sunday. “Defensively, we gave Homer to many second chances inside and we did not clamp down in the paint like we need to. Their size hurt us. We missed having Matt Doran in the line-up tonight. He is our point-guard and runs things for us.”
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Cortland, Newfield girls roll into final
It was somewhere in the middle of the first quarter that Elmira Southside head coach Ryan Johnson faced some grim basketball reality.
Cortland High girls were in the midst of outscoring his team 21-zip in the first quarter of Friday afternoon’s opening round game of the eighth annual O’Heron Invitational when he offered this assessment to assistant coach Jake Dailey.
“We might not score today,” conceded Johnson.
The relentless Purple Tigers went on to knock off overmatched Elmira Southside by a 54-24 final margin. The defending tournament champions owned a 32-1 lead at one juncture in this season debut at SUNY Cortland’s Corey Gymnasium.
That left little doubt about the top two teams on hand, as Newfield never trailed in a 56-29 victory over Homer Central to get the day started. Senior Micki Volpini scored 26 points to help win this match-up of Trojan teams — both schools sharing the same nickname.
Cortland and Newfield met just before noon today in the title contest back at Corey Gymnasium, following the Elmira Southside vs. Homer consolation game that got underway at 10 a.m.
Cortland 54, Elmira SS 24: Senior point guard Shannon Finucane scored 16 points and harassed Elmira Southside ball-handlers throughout the Purple Tigers’ romp. Classmates Fawn Lolar and Amanda Lawlor added 11 points apiece.
Those three scoring leaders are among 11 returning players from a CHS squad that went 15-7 last season. By the time the Purple Tigers had reeled off the first 14 points, all five starters had scored.
“That’s they way it’s going to be,” said Cortland head coach Dick Penoyer of the balanced scoring from his veteran, experienced group. “I don’t think you can stop all of these kids at the same time.”
Elmira Southside did not win a game last year, and has just two seniors on this team. Coach Johnson, a 2000 SUNY Cortland graduate who coached the Corning Community College men’s team before taking a job at his Southside alma mater, is starting a rebuilding program with three freshmen and three sophomores on his roster.
The youthful Green Hornets were never in this game.
Lawlor scored off the opening possession after grabbing an offensive rebound, Finucane turned a steal into a lay-up, Deanne Bishop connected from the side, Lolar swished a baseline shot and Finucane turned another takeaway into an easy two to force Elmira Southside to call for a timeout. After just two minutes and 13 seconds, the Green Hornets trailed 10-0.
It would not get better. Elmira Southside managed just five shots and turned the ball over 14 times in that nightmare of an opening quarter. A free throw by Erikka Rosplock in the opening minute of the second quarter would be Southside’s first point. A fast break bank shot by sophomore Megan McKernan with 37 seconds left in the first half would be Southside’s first basket.
The CHS lead was 34-6 at halftime, and grew to 52-11 heading into the fourth quarter. Elmira Southside would out-score CHS reserves 13-2 over the final eight minutes.
Senior Rosplock finished with six points and McKernan five to lead Southside scorers.
“We need to be a little more consistent in our offense,” was the lone Penoyer complaint, feeling things got a little sloppy as the game went along.
Newfield 56, Homer 29: A dozen turnovers in the opening quarter spelled trouble for Homer, who trailed Newfield throughout.
Back-to-back Homer miscues turned into baskets by Janelle Shipos and Sarah VanOrman put Newfield in front 9-4 and forced new Homer head coach Bruce Tytler to call timeout with 3:14 to play in the first quarter.
At that point, seven Homer turnovers had handed Newfield seven points.
“A lot of our offense is our defense,” said Newfield coach Gary Emerson, who went 17-4 with the Trojans in his first season running the team a year ago. “Our offense is still a work in progress, but our defense was sharp.”
The versatile Volpini put Newfield ahead 15-4 early in the second quarter by hitting a shot from the corner. That is when Homer responded with its lone offensive spurt of the game.
In a span of less than two minutes a pair of Ashley Brown free throws, a shot from the left flank by guard Jessica Rigg, a 3-point connection by Brown and a Stephanie Hartquist low post basket off a Brown feed had Homer within 15-13.
But back-to-back Volpini baskets thwarted the comeback. Maria Thannhauser scored on a drive, Volpini drained a 3-pointer from the corner and Newfield led 24-13.
Homer trailed 26-15 at halftime, and Newfield opened the third quarter going on a 10-2 run that featured treys by Volpini and Sierra Yaple. Homer never recovered, Brown finishing with 10 points and senior forward Halee Riley collecting seven points. Hartquist led Homer in rebounding with seven.
After 17 first half turnovers, Homer did take better care of the basketball.
“That was one of the bright spots,” said Coach Tytler. “In the second half we did say we wanted to cut our turnovers in half, and we did that so there was some progress there. I like the way our kids worked hard and never gave up. They were tired at the end of the game, which is good. We just lost to a better team.”
Volpini was the lone Newfield player in double figures, Shipos with seven points and Thannhauser six for the Interscholastic Athletic Conference school.
Newfield’s Coach Emerson was hoping to cut down his team’s turnovers heading into the Cortland game, especially a number of walking violations in scoring situations. “We need to minimize those for tomorrow,” he said. “A lot of it was them being too anxious, trying to do more than they could do.”
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