November 29, 2008
Different Groton, CHS final paths
Indians outlast Trojans in OT, Purple Tigers breeze
Two games that played out in totally different fashions made up Friday’s first night of the ninth annual Father O’Heron Invitational boys’ basketball tournament at SUNY Cortland.
The opening game saw defending champion Groton Central move to an early lead against Homer Central, which mounted a stirring comeback and led late before ultimately dropping a 75-70 overtime decision.
The second game saw Cortland High score 20 of the game’s first 22 points and build on the advantage from there, rolling to a 63-31 win over Marathon Central.
The Indians and Purple Tigers were to meet for the championship at 3:45 p.m. today after he Trojans and Olympians squared off in the 2 p.m. consolation game.
“The bottom line, unfortunately, is that until we learn to play hard but together and not always internalize everything, we’re going to be in games like this,” Groton coach John Filzen said. We’re going to struggle.
“Give Homer credit. They played well, and I think they’re in better shape than we are, though I hate to say that. I feel fortunate that we were able to pull it out. (Ethan) Tilebein got us back in it by making some free throws.”
Junior guard Tilebein led all scorers with 29 points, including the game’s last three points in regulation from the foul line to help force the extra session. He was fouled while shooting with two-tenths of second left in regulation and the game tied at 61-61 but missed both free throws, then nailed a pair early in overtime for the first of what were seven Indian points to open the four-minute frame, after which they never looked back.
When asked if he was concerned about the effect the missed free throws would have on his team in overtime, Filzen said: “No, because this is an intense group of guys who compete. You would think that it would have made Ethan say ‘I blew it, we’re done,’ but he wants to win and just kept on competing.”
“It was a good game for the team and for me, except for the free throws,” Tilebein said with a smile afterwards, having scored the second-most points in a game in his career after a 30-point performance last season. “The team played well. We knew that they were going to come at us fired up because we’re the defending champs, and we had to match their level of intensity.”
That looked like it would be a tall order once the Trojans got rolling. Groton scored 14 of the game’s first 16 points before Doug Pasquerella’s club began chipping away. While Groton was able to build on a 20-13 advantage after one quarter for a 38-28 halftime lead, Homer used a 19-9 spurt to tie the game at 47-47 on a jumper by junior swingman Aaron Darr with 2:58 left in the third.
Groton clung to a 53-51 edge entering the fourth, but senior swingman Kane Hartnett drained a three-pointer 46 seconds into the fourth to give Homer its first lead at 54-53. The Trojans’ biggest lead was four, at 58-54 on a basket by Hartnett with 5:34 left, but Tilebein then scored four in a row to knot it at 58-58 with 3:15 left. Homer went back up by one on a free throw by Darr with 2:21 left and Hartnett made it 61-58 with 1:17 remaining. Tilebein then canned his three free throws down the stretch while the Trojans missed the front end of two one-and-ones.
After Tilebein’s two foul shots to give Groton the lead for good early in overtime, senior guard Peter Jackson drained a three-pointer en route to scoring seven of his team’s 14 points in the extra session, including four free throws in the waning seconds to keep Homer at bay. All told, Groton went 10-for-12 from the free-throw line in overtime.
“I was proud of our guys and the effort they put forth,” Pasquerella said in the wake of his first game at the Trojans’ varsity helm after coaching the junior varsity last season. “Groton is a great team and will have a lot of success; today is an indication of where we are early. We have a lot to work on, and a lot to do. We’re trying to mix in new guys and a new style, and for the most part did a good job tonight.
“I think the last 1:30 of regulation, when they tied it, was a microcosm of the game. In spurts, we didn’t play well. The difference between the second, third and most of the fourth quarters and the first quarter and overtime was that early and in overtime our defensive pressure wasn’t very good. But overall the team effort was very good. The guys who started played fairly well, and there wasn’t that much of a dip when I went to the bench. We’ve got better depth this season.”
Jackson and junior guard Josh Senter complemented Tilebein with 15 points each for Groton, while junior swingman Kyle reed added 13. Reed had eight of the Indians’ 22 rebounds, while Jackson and Senter had four assists apiece (of 14 total) and Tilebein had four steals.
“I have five returning players and eight newcomers, and the JVs guys still have to adjust to the speed of varsity ball,” Filzen said. “Until we get to that point, things like this are going to happen. This was a game where we could have blown them out, then should have lost, but finally won.”
Hartnett had 21 points, sophomore swingman Zach Hatfield 17 and senior guard Joe Rivers 10 for Homer. No further stats were available for the Trojans.
Cortland 63, Marathon 31: There was no such suspense in the second game, as Cortland earned a chance at its sixth O’Heron championship after having a five-year string of success snapped last year by Groton. The Indians shaded the Purple Tigers 48-45 in the first round last year before beating Homer 49-31 for their first title.
Senior center Trevor Williamson and classmate Will Fickenscher, a guard, had 13 points each for the winners, while junior forward Jake Robillard added 12. Senior forward Chase Wiley led Marathon with nine points.
Senior forwards Robert Wade had nine rebounds and senior center Justin Guerin added seven as Cortland owned the boards 48-29, Riley pulling down seven caroms and senior forward Stephen Birdsall six for the Olympians. Cortland junior guard Caleb Wright had six assists and four steals, while sophomore guard Dyquann Barlow added five assists.
“Williamson ran the floor very well, a big kid on a big court, and did a pretty nice job inside,” Purple Tigers coach Mick Lowie said. “Birdsall is taller (6-6 to 6-3) and bigger, and Trevor did a nice job. Fickenscher is our only returning starter and played a very nice, consistent game. He showed great defensive hustle.
“The newcomers did a pretty good job, too; you never know how the first game is going to go. We played really good defense, and didn’t give them any second shots. I was happy with the way we attacked the basket against their zone; early in the season most teams concentrate more on going man-to-man, But we hit a couple of three-pointers early and got the ball inside well.”
“They shut us out of second-chance shots with their rebounding, and we got off to a slow start,” Marathon coach Jim Holland said. But the way I look at it, they beat us by 15 each half. I figured we’d play them close; I was very surprised. When we ran our stuff we got layups and looked good. Then we’d try to go one-on-one and tack quick shots.
“It was a good test against a bigger school with good players who are fairly disciplined and well-coached. We didn’t make them work hard enough on defense. If we can put the pieces together and get the flow of the offense going, we’ll be OK.”
“They have two starters back and outsized us,” Lowie said of Marathon. “They had the whole team from the beginning of practice (as opposed to last year, when Marathon went to the state Class C soccer finals) and ended last season pretty well. I didn’t expect that score at all.”
Cortland led 12-2 after one quarter, 28-13 at halftime and 47-21 entering the fourth.
In looking ahead to today’s game with Groton, Lowie said that “They have deadly shooters in Tilebein and Senter, and Jackson drained a couple. They all can shoot, and they spread the floor on you. We can’t let them shoot threes all night; if we do, it will be a long night.
“Overall we have a little bit of a size advantage, but the other side of that is that they’re quicker than us; I’ll take quickness any day. They want to hang on to the title, and we want to take it back from them. It should be a good one.”
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