December 11, 2010
Switch works out for Purple Tigers
Cortland High basketball coach Mick Lowie mentioned after Friday night’s season-opener against OHSL Freedom American Division visitor Phoenix that he went in with no intention of using man-to-man defense.
The Firebirds took a long trip back north wishing he hadn’t.
The Purple Tigers trailed by as many as six points, 19-13, in the first half, in which they largely played a 2-3 zone, before coming back to take a 31-26 lead into intermission. Their full-court man-to-man pressure on the visitors’ guards made it an entirely different second half, CHS scoring 15 of the first 18 points in the third quarter, outscoring Phoenix by 22-5 in that eight-minute stretch to take control and cruising to a 70-41 victory.
“We started going man-to-man in the second quarter to change the tempo. Their two big kids are good, and they were killing us,” said Lowie, referring to Phoenix twin brothers Marty, a 6-8 senior center, and Mark Felicia, a 6-6 senior forward. “But putting full-court pressure on their guards made it tough for them to get it inside. We didn’t know anything about Phoenix coming in, except for the two big kids.”Phoenix is a division newcomber, having played in the Class B Liberty Division last winter.
“We talked at halftime, and the JV coaches came up with some good suggestions to help stop those two,” added Lowie. “I was very pleased with three things in the second half — our defense, getting the big guys out from the basket; our rebounding, which was huge in the second half and our team passing, which was beautiful. Guys were passing up wide open shots to kick it inside. We had 28 baskets in the game, and 24 assists.”
CHS had a 18-9 second half rebounding advantage, with a 37-36 edge for the game.
Lowie was also pleased by the fact that his squad had only eight turnovers in the game, four in each half, with the first turnover of the second half not occurring until five minutes remained in the game.
Phoenix, on the other hand, had 22 turnovers in the contest, eight in the decisive third quarter alone.
“THEY PICKED UP the intensity after a close first half and got a lot of easy steals that led to layups,” said Firebirds coach Jim Rose, who called two timeouts in a span of 54 seconds early in the third quarter in a vain attempt to stem the tide. “We did a much better job of moving the ball and getting it inside in the first half; we probably had three times as many turnovers in the second half as in the first. Once they switched to man-to-man, it hurt our ability to get into our offense.”
Mark Felicia had 13 points in the first half and finished with 16 for the game, while Marty (whose late dunk gave the visitors a 14-12 lead after one quarter) ended up with 12, four in the second half. As noted, Cortland trailed by six, 19-13, in the second quarter. After the Purple Tigers scored the next four points to whittle the deficit to two, junior point guard Qwuhail Barlow picked up his second foul. Classmate Jonathan Prior then shifted over to the point and scored the hosts’ next 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers followed by an old-fashioned 3-point play to close out his outburst and make it 28-21 CHS with 2:04 left until halftime.
“I thank God for everything,” the 6-0 Prior said of his performance. “The key was our defense; it ignited our offense, and we wanted everyone to score more. I don’t know what happened on my two 3-pointers. I just felt like I needed to connect, or without them we’d lose some of our momentum. Their guards didn’t know how to handle our man-to-man, and couldn’t get it to the big men. It was working out and we stuck to it. It did us good.”
Prior tied Purple Tigers 6-4 junior center Brandon Babcock for game honors with 20 points apiece. Babcock scored all six of his third-quarter points among the first eight the winners scored in the stanza, then added five more in the fourth.” We knew they were strong inside and our full-court press, with our quick guards, worked well and led to a lot of steals (15 in all),” Babcock said. “We were just trying to move the ball quicker to the high post or the short corner, for the high-low.”
J.P. Reagan, a 6-4 junior forward, had 10 points for the winners. Babcock led Cortland in rebounding with eight boards, while Reagan had six and 6-4 senior forward Justin Hogan five. Hogan also had a team-high eight assists and four steals on the night.
PHOENIX JVs shared Cortland 53-52 as Bryan Murray hit a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left for the winning margin, en route to a game-high 19 points. CHS trailed by two but was able to convert only one free throw after a late Firebird foul on a 3-point shot.
Andrew Potter scored 11 points and Isaiah Prior 10 for the Purple Tigers, while Chris Vaverchak complemented Murray with 12 points for the visitors.
The JV game got started a half-hour late due to some travel problems Phoenix encountered on the way down.
Both Cortland teams next host Mexico this Friday, the JVs getting things started at 5:30 p.m.
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