December 2 , 2006


Red Dragons can’t close the door

SUNYIT men rally to win in OT


Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Michael Jankiewicz eyeballs the hoop as Pat Whalen of SUNYIT defends last night at Corey Gymnasium. Though Jankiewicz scored 13 points off the bench, SUNYIT won 93-88 in OT.

Sports Editor

In their first Corey Gymnasium basketball outing of the season, SUNY Cortland men let one slip away Friday night.
Up by 16 points at halftime and still protecting a seven-point lead with 3:44 left in regulation, the Red Dragons ended up suffering a 93-88 overtime setback to visiting SUNY Institute of Technology after failing to covert scoring chances when it mattered the most.
“We had the opportunity to close this thing out and we didn’t close the door on them,” said Coach Tom Spanbauer after the Red Dragons fell to 0-2 in SUNY Athletic Conference contests and 2-2 overall. “It was fundamental things. Defensively, we didn’t keep them from driving to the rim. And then we missed free throws and lay-ups.”
SUNYIT, which has all five starters back from the squad that upended the regular season champion Red Dragons in last year’s conference playoff semifinal round, got 28 points from Chris LaBoard and 25 points from Chris Reaves in pulling off this comeback. Point guard Reaves had 20 of his 25 points after the visitors from Utica fell behind 49-33 in the opening half.
“I think they proved themselves to be a veteran team,” said Coach Kevin Grimmer after this conference debut for his 4-1 Wildcats.  “There was no panic in them. They played like an experienced team and climbed back into it slowly.”
Guard Dave Jutton led the Red Dragons with 20 points, including making a trio of 3-pointers in the latter stages of the second half that seemed to squelch SUNYIT’s comeback effort. The senior captain worked off a screen for a 3-point swish that put the Red Dragons ahead 79-74 with 4:38 left to play. And when senior forward Rod Headley just beat the time clock to score on a short jump shot, Cortland had an 81-74 advantage with 3:44 remaining.
Cortland would not score again in regulation, leading Spanbauer to note: “It’s early in the season and we do have to get better in our crunch-time decisions as to shot selection.”
The Wildcats tied the game for the second time in the second half when foul-troubled starting center Antoine Gilkes made the second of two free throws with 53.5 seconds left to play.
Cortland missed two shots to regain the lead, and the Wildcats got the ball back with 23 seconds left. After Coach Grimmer spent a timeout with six ticks to go, a Reaves 17-footer bounced off the back rim, the Wildcats were unable to tip in the miss and this game was headed to a five-minute overtime session.
CORTLAND LED ONCE in OT, when Dave Maggiacomo made a corner 3-pointer with 2:30 left to play — the last of his 16 points.
But Elvins Belone put the Wildcats ahead to stay with a jump shot 12 seconds later. And when the Red Dragons missed an open lay-up and the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw trip, Reaves made a pair of free throws after being fouled driving to the basket and SUNYIT was ahead for keeps.
Down just 89-86 after Carson Niehoff’s reverse lay-up with 32 seconds to go, the Red Dragons did have two possessions with a chance to pull even. But a missed 3-pointer and a turnover with 11.9 seconds were the final blows.
Pat Whalen made two free throws with 11.7 seconds left for a five-point lead, and after Jutton scored on a put-back after missing a 3-pointer, two more free throws from Belone with three seconds left finished the job for the Wildcats.
Belone finished with 17 points, Whalen 11 and Gilkes nine in just 24 minutes of play for the Wildcats, who got 90 of their 93 points from starters.
Meanwhile, Cortland got big first half lifts off the bench from junior forward Michael Jankiewicz (13 points and six rebounds), sophomore guard Juan Miolan (12 points and five rebounds) and 6-foot-6 freshman center Mike Lewis (seven points) in the opening half. The Red Dragons shot 50 percent from the floor during that 49-point outburst.
“You know we talked about defense at halftime,” said SUNYIT’s Grimmer. “You can’t beat a team giving up 49 points in a half.
Lewis and Miolan were responsible for turning a tight game in the Red Dragons’ favor.
Lewis scored seven straight points for Cortland and Miolan had a 10-point burst including consecutive 3-pointers to put Cortland ahead. A string of four consecutive treys — started by  Miolan and center Joe Sargent and ending with back-to-back Jankiewicz connections — built a double digit lead that grew into that 16-point halftime margin.
BUT STARTING WITH an opening three-point play by Reaves to open the second half, Cortland could not duplicate that offensive success. The Red Dragons shot just 31 percent in the second half and saw the Wildcats turn turnovers into points.
Foul woes didn’t help, SUNYIT getting to the line early and often in the second half. Headley and Miolan both fouled out in OT.
“We gave them too many easy baskets, either on second chance points or lay-ups off turnovers,” said Spanbauer, SUNYIT finishing with a 54-44 edge in rebounding. Gilkes got his hands on 13 misses, with Reaves and LaBoard pulling down 10 boards apiece.
“I give Cortland a lot of credit. They’re not as experience as we are,” said Grimmer, especially impressed with Cortland’s bench strength. Jankiewicz finished with 13 points and Miloan 12 in their reserve roles.
“But they were at home, so at the same time I gave a lot of credit to our kids. It’s tough to win on the road and that’s what you have to do if you want to get somewhere,” added Grimmer. “Cortland has a lot to be excited about. They do a good job down here and I think they should be there at the end. I think we’ll be there, too. We were in the finals last year and we expect to get back there again.”
This was the final first semester conference contest for Cortland, the Red Dragons back in action this afternoon when Alfred visits for a 4 p.m. game. On Tuesday, the Red Dragons play host to Ithaca College.