December 3, 2011
CHS defense steps up
Reagan’s 30 points leads comeback win over Westhill
A tenacious man-to-man defense and a monster game from senior forward J.P. Reagan were the keys Friday night as the Cortland High boys’ basketball team got its season off on the right foot against Westhill in Shafer Gym.
The Purple Tigers trailed for a good part of the second quarter and into the third before holding the Warriors to just one point for a span of 8:41 from near midway through the third until the 3:54 mark of the fourth to take control of the contest.
Reagan, meanwhile, poured in 30 points — 16 in the second half — and also had 13 rebounds as CHS scored a 59-49 win over the perennial Class B power.
“We wanted to pressure their guards more (in the second half) and take away the back door to force them to their second option,” said Cortland coach Mick Lowie, whose team trailed 29-28 at halftime after being down by as much as five, at 24-19, in the second quarter. “We did a much better job defensively in the second half, and Brian Hughes spearheaded that. He showed tonight why he’s our best defender. He got his hands on balls, tipped passes and wouldn’t let anyone go by him. Our defense allowed us to rebound better, keeping them outside with their shots.
“We knew what a scorer J.P. can be, with his long arms around the basket. He has to be careful dribbling in there, but when he gets squared up he’s a great shooter. He’s one of the main options in most of our offensive sets,” Lowie added.
Westhill has one starter, senior guard Ryan Conroy, back from the squad that won its second straight Section 3 Class B championship and advanced to the state B semifinals before bowing out. That team in turn had only one starter back from the 2009-10 team that won the state championship in Class B. The Purple Tigers, meanwhile, were 19-2 overall last season and lost in the sectional A finals to eventual state champion Jamesville-DeWitt.
‘I’M VERY HAPPY with this game but not surprised,” Lowie said. “It was exactly what I expected, though I thought it would be closer. We knew coming in that they’d be quicker than us, and it was good to play the way we did in the second half against Westhill, which is always very disciplined.”
“Defense won the game for us,” said the 6-foot-5 Reagan, who along with the 6-4 junior Hughes and senior center Brandon Babcock, also 6-5, helped give the Purple Tigers a considerable height advantage.
“We put more pressure on their guards and played man-to-man most of the second half. They were beating our zone and getting layups,” he added. “I’m surprised I had 30 points. We all tried to take better shots within our offense, and were getting it inside to Brandon, who’s a good passer. A game like this definitely builds our confidence. We know what’s to come, that everyone is coming at us hard all year.”
Reagan had 14 points at halftime and added seven in the third, which ended with CHS up 41-35, and nine in the fourth, including a 4-for-4 performance from the free throw line down the stretch as Westhill fouled to get the ball back and cut its deficit. Senior guard Jonathan Prior and junior forward Josh Gutchess each hit a pair of key free throws as time grew short for the visitors.
Babcock finished with 10 points and Prior added nine for the Purple Tigers, while Conroy paced Westhill with 15. The winners finished with a 32-31 rebounding advantage after being outboarded 16-15 in the first half. Babcock had eight rebounds in the contest.
“We only had eight assists in the game, which is way too low for this group of kids,” Lowie said. “Credit their defense for some of that. On the other hand, we only had 11 turnovers.”
By comparison, the Warriors turned the ball over 18 times.
“They picked their defense up and we didn’t execute as well as we should have,” Westhill coach Kevin King said. “Give them credit for that. We’re young and small; they’re so much bigger than us, but when we executed our half-court (man-to-man) defense I thought we did pretty well. Thirty-three (Reagan) killed us. He’s a pretty good player.”
THE WARRIORS LED by five, 33-28, 1:23 into the third quarter before the hosts scored the next six points, including four from Babcock, to take a 34-33 lead. A Westhill free throw tied the game at 34-34, but CHS scored the next seven points, including five by Reagan, to take the lead for good at 41-34.
Another free throw by the visitors made it 41-35 at the end of the third, and Cortland then scored the first 12 points of the fourth (Reagan with five, including a 3-pointer) to go up 53-35 before a 10-0 run by the visitors made it a 53-45 game with 1:47 left. Prior and Reagan then hit a pair of free throws apiece and Babcock scored inside with 39 seconds left to make it 59-45. Westhill then closed out the scoring with the last four points, including a layup by Conroy with two seconds left to account for the final margin.
“These kids aren’t going to quit,” King said. “They’re used to winning. They played behind a bunch of real good players last year, and now it’s their turn. It was good to play a good a team early; I think we can play with most of the teams in our league, and now the kids fell good about that.”
“It was a good first win, a tough game with another one coming up in a week,” said Lowie, his team to take on Skaneateles, last year’s sectional B runner-up to Westhill, a week from today at Henninger starting at 2 p.m. “They went 19-2 last year, too, and have a couple of players, a big kid and a guard, back from that team.”
CORTLAND JVs opened their season with a 70-61 win over Westhill, using a 19-10 third-quarter advantage to overcome a 35-32 halftime deficit. Daquan Pittman led the way with 22 points, complemented by Quinn Kennedy with 15, Qadir Artis with 14 and Sage Brown with 13. Jeff Lobello had 15 points for Westhill, while Sean DeKay and Mike Burton added 12 each.
The Cortland JVs visit Skaneateles Tuesday in a 5 p.m. start.
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