November 25, 2006


Purple Tigers, Indians pull away

Break open close contests in O’Heron Invite openers


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Groton’s Kyle Reed (33) looks for a teammate while being guarded by Homer’s Derrick McCall in the opening round of the O’Heron Invitational last night at SUNY Cortland. Groton won 55-40.

Staff Writer

The final scores show Cortland High and Groton Central boys both winning by double digits, but both opening round games of the seventh annual O’Heron Basketball Invitational really were closer inside SUNY Cortland’s Corey Gymnasium Friday evening.
The Purple Tigers needed a 10-0 run in the final four minutes of the third quarter to break open six-point contest en route to a 63-42 triumph over a pesky Marathon Olympian squad in the day’s final game. Earlier, Groton’s Indians used a 7-0 run in the final two minutes of the third quarter to open some distance from a 36-31 advantage for a 55-40 victory over an improved Homer Trojan squad guided by new head coach Jim Luchsinger.
Homer and Marathon will meet in the 2 p.m. consolation game this afternoon, with the championship game between Cortland and Groton to tip-off around 3:45 p.m.
“We did do a lot of good things tonight, but we did not necessarily get the results we wanted to,” said Cortland High coach Mick Lowie. “We found the open people and we made some good passes, but we did not hit the shots. That may be an issue with us all season long.”
“Marathon came out, with not a lot of practice time together, and played very well. They hit some perimeter shots. I was really surprised by that. I thought they executed very well and changed up their defenses well,” Lowie added. “I think maybe our having a little more practice time with our starting players made the difference.”
Marathon had only three days of practice together to concentrate on only basketball as a number of players split practice through last Saturday with the Olympians going to the state final four in soccer. That season officially ended last Saturday.
“We did have a close game,” said Groton coach John Filzen. “We made a little run at the end of the first half after giving up six straight points. We were able to stretch the lead out a little more at the end of the third quarter and we were able to hold on in the fourth quarter.”
“Homer is an improved team,” Filzen added. “They are a big (height-wise) team and a physical team. This was a good win for us.”
Cortland 63, Marathon 42: Cortland and Marathon battled to a 12-12 draw after the first quarter in the final game of the day. In fact, the game was still even at 22-22 with 2:55 left in the first half after Olympian senior guard Ben McDonald hit a 3-pointer.
The Purple Tigers closed out the half with an 11-0 run. Senior guard Joel White (23 points) hit two 3-pointers while junior forward Levi Walrath completed a traditional three-point play with a free throw after scoring a basket while being fouled. Derek Allen added lay-up after one of White’s seven steals to complete the run with 1:13 left in the half.
“Joel is tough,” said Lowie. “He creates a lot of opportunities and gives the other team a lot of trouble.”
Marathon senior Tony Ortiz buried a 3-pointer with 4:53 left in the third quarter to pull the Olympains to within 37-31. The second trey of the game by Cody Bellefleur allowed Marathon to trail 40-334 with 3:52 left in the quarter, but that would be as close as the Olympians would get the rest of the night. Ortiz and Bellefleur each finished with eight points.
Tom Wilk began the decisive Purple Tiger run as the 6-foot-8 senior center scored on an offensive rebound/tip-in and added another deuce with 2:24 left in the quarter for a 44-34 advantage. Wilk just missed a triple-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
“It was a nice game for Tom,” said Lowie. “What I was most pleased with was his blocks. He did not come down with the blocks and draw fouls. His blocks were made high and he also kept the ball in play. That was very critical because he did not pick up the fouls and he could stay in the game longer. We need Tom on the floor more.”
Two free throws by Kaywon Pittman, a steal and lay-up White and two charity-stripe tosses by Dan Leonard closed out third quarter play with the Purple Tigers in front 50-34. Two more buckets by Wilk after a White lay-up completed a 16-0 run as the Cortland lead grew to 56-34 with 5:32 left in the contest.
Two free throws by McDonald (11 points) snapped a seven-minute scoring drought by Marathon, but the Olympians still trailed by 20. The two teams played out the remaining time with neither side holding an advantage.
“I was pleased with our effort,” said Marathon coach Jim Holland. “I think our hustle and intensity was diminished a little in the third quarter. Once Cortland got on that roll, we kinda went back to our problem from last year. The guys lost some intensity and began to panic once they got behind. We played well as a team overall. I think we will continue to improve as the season rolls on.”
Groton 55, Homer 40: Groton built a 12-5 lead through the first quarter and were able to maintain a six to 10-point cushion much of the first half before Homer made on push to close the gap to 27-23 with 1:08 left when Franco Giordano scored on the offensive put-back.
Groton got a very balanced scoring attack with Paul Cooley scoring 14 points and Kyle Yunger adding 10 points and a team-high six rebounds.
The Trojans were paced by Joe May as the senior netted 12 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Tristan Hartnett added 10 points while Jake Andrews grabbed 10 rebounds. It was a bucket by Hartnett with 2:11 left in the third quarter that got Homer to within 36-31, but Groton went on its decisive 7-0 run to pull away for the final time.
Cooley started the run with a 3-pointer. Kyle Reed added two free throws and a deuce from the field to complete the quarter.
The fourth quarter was fairly uneventful as the Indians maintained their advantage went on to victory.
While Groton shot 45 percent (21-for-47), including eight 3-pointers, Homer struggled, shooting just 29 percent (14-for-48). The Trojans also made just 6-of-20 free throws (30 percent).
“I was pleased with our effort,” said Luchsinger. “The energy is there. You could tell it was our first game and we had only a couple weeks of practice. We did miss our free throws and I cannot even count how many lay-ups we missed, but, overall, I am pleased with the effort and the way the kids played.”
As for the championship game today, Coach Filzen offered his thoughts.
“We will have our hands full,” said Filzen. “Cortland is bigger than we are, they are stronger than we are and they are older than we are, but we will go after them. That is why they toss the ball up.”
“John has a whole team-load of shooters,” countered Lowie. “We will need to play some defense and not let them shoot from the outside. We will be better off if we can force Groton to shoot from the inside where are strength is. If we let them shoot the basket (from the outside), it could be a long night, because they can put points up in a hurry.”



CHS, Homer girls face off in final

Sports Editor

There were some similarities to how Cortland High and Homer Central girls played their way into the championship game of the seventh annual O’Heron Basketball Invitational.
So it only seemed natural for both coaches to provide nearly identical viewpoints to Friday afternoon’s opening round games at SUNY Cortland’s Corey Gymnasium, albeit opinions offered a couple of hours apart.
After Cortland used a 21-point third quarter outburst to cruise past defending champion Newfield 54-38 in a rematch of last year’s finalists, after junior newcomer Amanda Lawlor scored 23 points to go along with 16 points by senior point guard Shannon Finucane, Coach Dick Penoyer offered these observations.
“It’s always nice to win that first one,” said the Purple Tigers mentor. “At times we played very, very well and at times we didn’t execute very well at all.”
After Homer had opened the day’s festivities with a 37-25 victory over Groton, after junior guard Ashley Brown scored 10 of her game high 18 points in the fourth quarter, Coach Brenda Nobles provided these thoughts.
“It’s always good to start the season with a win, especially after last year,” said Nobles, the Trojans coming off a 1-19 campaign. “There were stretches when we looked really, really good and the rest of the time we looked like, oh God.”
The two neighbors tipped off just before noon today for the championship. Ironically, in the four previous seasons the girls have been added to the O’Heron Invitational agenda neither side has come away with a title.
Newfield and Groton were 10 a.m. consolation opponents. The two Interscholastic Athletic Conference schools have something else in common, too. Neither side made a 3-point shot during their opening round setbacks.
Cortland 54, Newfield 38: Though CHS led this one throughout, an athletic Newfield squad that had freshman Maria Thannhauser and eighth grader Verista Henderson in the starting line-up was within 26-21 two minutes into the second half after Shelby Tallman’s 15-footer got a friendly roll on the rim and fell through.
That is when the Purple Tigers erupted, going on a 17-zip scoring spree over a five-minute span to tuck this game away.
“The third quarter killed us,” said Coach Gary Emerson, who had been involved with the boys’ program at Newfield before taking over this season when former SUNY Cortland point guard Jen Knox married and took a teaching post at South Jefferson High School.
“We tried to jump into a zone defense and they hit four or five shots on us and just buried us,” he said.
Cortland junior forward Deanna Bishop started the run with a jump shot in transition, followed by a Finucane breakaway lay-up after a long rebound on a Newfield missed 3-pointer. Finucane had a chance at a 3-point play, only to misfire from the free throw line.
Then former Floridian Lawlor made a 3-pointer from the corner, Finucane swished a 3-pointer from the wing, sophomore reserve Alena Turturro sank a basket from outside and Lawlor was successful from 3-point range once again from the corner.
Newfield used its second timeout of the run at that time, but the damage had been done as CHS was in 41-21 control. The Trojans never got closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
The versatile 6-foot Lawlor displayed her talents inside and outside in leading the Purple Tigers offense. Besides the two huge 3-pointers made during the decisive pullaway, she was also 9-of-12 from the free throw line.
Returning all-star Finucane ran the show smoothly, helping handle Newfield’s aggressive defense as well as providing some scoring. Bishop added nine points to the winning cause.
Junior forward Michelle Volpini topped Newfield with 17 points, while Tallman tossed in nine.
“We have a lot of potential, we just haven’t matured yet,” said Newfield’s Emerson.
Having 5-10 senior center Heather Fish in foul trouble didn’t help the Newfield cause, Fish finishing with six points. Neither did the Trojans’ 0-for-8 shooting from 3-point range or 38 turnovers.
That defense effort pleased Penoyer. “Defense is what we have to emphasize, because we’re going to score points,” he said.
Homer 37, Groton 25: Defense was also a boost for Homer, as Groton shot just 11-for-62 (18 percent) from the floor including missing all 16 attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
Coach Nobles singled out senior Meghan Finn and Stephanie Hartquist as keys to shutting down Groton’s backcourt of senior Lisa Slocum and junior Val Senter in Homer’s man-to-man defense.
“I thought we executed our stuff well and got open looks, we just didn’t make them,” said Groton coach Dick Brecht. “But at the same time, we weren’t ready to play and they were.”
Groton was in front just once, when senior forward Jessica Jones scored with 3:20 left in the opening quarter for a 7-6 advantage. The Indians would go the next eight minutes and 20 seconds without a point, as Homer built a 17-9 lead
A Brown 3-pointer early in the second half gave Homer a 22-12 lead, but Groton was forcing the Trojans into mistakes and was within 22-17 on a Senter lay-up — caused Nobles to ask for a timeout with 3:04 left in the third quarter.
“We didn’t let things get us down. Last year we would have panicked,” said Nobles, as Homer was up to the challenge.
After the timeout, Homer went on a 13-2 run to put the game away. Brown scored the final eight points in that spurt, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Brown was 4-for-7 beyond the arc and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line. She’s closing in on the school career record for treys, needing jus three more to pull even.
Hilary Simons added seven points and grabbed nine rebounds, as the Trojans’ work off the defensive boards was crucial to this success. Guard Hartquist added six points for the winners.
Senter finished with 11 points for Groton, who made the final score respectable by scoring three baskets in the final 25 seconds. Jennifer Jones, Jessica’s twin sister, tossed in seven points.
“This is good or us,” said Brecht. “It lets us know that now we have to come out and do things better.”
In junior varsity play, Groton girls were a 38-22 winner over visiting Homer Friday morning. Kellie Rongo led Groton with 11 points with Stephanie Senter adding seven points.
Homer got balanced scoring with six points each from Jessica Rigg and Kate VanValkenburg, while Kaylie Eastman added four points.