December 9, 2010
CHS looking to defend its division title
Cortland High basketball coach Mick Lowie has reason for optimism this season, which begins Friday evening with a home game against Phoenix at Shafer Gymnasium.
A total of 10 of the 14 players on the roster this winter are back from last year’s squad, which went 11-2 in the OHSL Freedom American Division to win the program’s first league championship since 1958-59. The Purple Tigers finished 14-5 overall.
The list of veterans is headed up by the two returning starters, 6-foot-4 senior forward Justin Hogan and 6-4 junior center Brandon Babcock.
Hogan led the team in rebounding last season with 7.2 boards per game and was the fourth-leading scorer (9.1 points a contest), tying for second in 3-pointers with 20. He was also the co-leader in total steals with 34 and third in both total assists (45) and total blocks (19). Babcock was second on the team in scoring (12.3 ppg), rebounds (6.5 a contest) and blocks (19), third in steals (33) and fifth in assists (31).
Also back are seniors T.J. Bardsley (6-1 forward), Donovan Prior (5-9 guard), Justin Tabel (6-1 forward), and Nick Reynolds (6-4 forward) and juniors Jonathan Prior (6-0 guard, Donovan’s brother), Qwuhail Barlow (6-0 guard), P.J. Mahar (5-9 guard) and J.P. Reagan (6-4 forward). Hogan, Babcock and Bardsley are the captains this season.
The newcomers are 5-9 senior guard Alex Stacy, who played for the junior varsity team two seasons ago before taking last year off from the game; 6-3 junior forward Evan Jackson, 6-3 sophomore forward Josh Gutchess and 6-3 sophomore forward Brian Hughes.
Three of last year’s starters graduated in June. Guard Jordan Prior, the brother of Jonathan and Donovan, led the team in scoring (13.8) and assists (75), was second in 3-pointers (20) and fourth in steals (29). He now plays in the Onondaga Communty College backcourt.
Guard Jeff Brown who was the second-leading scorer (11.6), sank a team-high 22 3-pointers, and was fourth in assists (36) and fifth in steals (27). Forward Caleb Wright was the third-leading rebounder (5.8), led in blocks (23) and tied for the lead in steals with Hogan (34).
“The challenge will be for kids who were on the team last year to step up into starting roles,” said Lowie, who is entering his 22nd year as CHS head coach. “We have to get kids ready to go from being reserves to starters, and have everyone come together as a team. The ability is there, but it’s difficult to make that transition. Right now we see Qwuhail as the point guard, Jonathan Prior at guard and J.P. Reagan or possibly P.J. Mahar at forward as the new starters.”
In addressing his team’s strengths and weaknesses, Lowie noted that “We have pretty good overall size (with seven players 6-3 or better), and we have some pretty quick guards in Qwuhail, the Priors and Stacy, who is also rugged. I think we’ll be able to score points, and we have good depth with the 10 kids back. All of the kids are good athletes, and they know what’s going on. Our practices have been real good; they’re all real aggressive and competitive in practice.
“With three new starters we’ll have to be able to play some defense this year. With our size we’ll be a zone team, but will be more able to play man-to-man than in previous years, with more pressing and trapping.”
Bishop Sudden, which finished second to the Purple Tigers in the Freedom American last season, has dropped down to the Class B Liberty Division, to be replaced by Phoenix, which moved up from that division. Homer, Chittenango and Phoenix round out the five-team loop.
“I think we can compete for the top spot,” Lowie said. “At this point our strongest competitor looks to be Chittenango, which has all five starters back from last season. Mexico has a couple of kids back and is always tough, and I think you’ll see Homer improving over previous years. I don’t know that much about Phoenix, though I heard that they have two 6-7 kids. Things will be competitive, as they always are.
“Jamesville-DeWitt is still Jamesville-DeWitt, and is without question the team to beat,” he added, the Red Rams favored in the Freedom National. “CBA plays at a high level as well, East Syracuse-Minoa had a strong JV team last season, you never know about Fowler — though Greg Sweeney does a nice job with them — and Fulton has a new coach.”
As for goals this season, Lowie said: “We’d like to win our own tournament Dec. 28-29 with Homer, Dryden and Marathon) and the Oneida Tournament (Jan. 15-16), where we lost to Nottingham in the finals last winter. We play them in the first round this season, then either Oneida or Rome Free Academy.
“We also want to compete for the division and sectional titles.”
Lowie will once again be assisted by Rick Miller and Jeremy Milligan, with Yale Hughes returning as head JV coach, along with assistants Tom Neugebauer and Tim Guido. Ben Albright will coach the seventh-grade team, assisted by Brandon Galutz, while Jeff Lacey is the eighth-grade coach and Jim Brown the coach of the freshman team, assisted by Jeff VanGorder.
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