December 22, 2012
Unbeaten Cortland cools off Spartans
Rich Barnes/contributing phtographer
Cortland High’s Brian Hughes tries to latch onto a pass Friday night at Shafer Gymnasium, where the unbeaten Purple Tigers topped East Syracuse-Minoa 46-31.
In this holiday season, it was appropriate that something had to give Friday night as the Cortland High boys’ basketball team hosted East Syracuse-Minoa.
Both teams came in with 3-0 records in their respective divisions, CHS in the OHSL Freedom American and ES-M in the Freedom National. Fortunately for the Purple Tigers, what gave was the zero in the Spartans’ league win column as the hosts scored a 46-31 victory to improve to 6-0 overall.
After a slow start, the winners — actually dubbed the Green and White Tigers for the night as both teams wore socks in those colors to honor Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, in the wake of last week’s tragedy — built what proved to be an insurmountable lead by halftime. Cortland didn’t put its first points on the board until 2:24 in as senior forward Josh Gutchess scored, was fouled and added a free throw for an old-school three-point play en route to a 12-point night. The winners never trailed thereafter, taking an 18-8 lead after one quarter and expanding it to 28-11 at halftime.
Leading the way was senior point guard Isaiah Prior, who scored 13 of his game-high 15 points in the first two quarters and also had five rebounds, three steals and two deflections on the night.
The Spartans, now 4-2 overall, showed why they came in with a four-game winning streak, including victories over Syracuse CBA and Fowler, with their second-half performance. They matched CHS’s strong man-to-man defense with one of their own and pressing a bit to make a respectable game of it.
ES-M outscored their hosts 11-9 in the third to trail 37-22 entering the fourth, and got to within nine, 39-31, with 3:19 left before a steal and score by CHS sophomore guard Sage Brown on ES-M’s next possession made it 41-31 with 2:37 left.
Cortland then held its visitors scoreless the rest of the way and hit five of eight free throws down the stretch for the final margin.
“WE CERTAINLY MADE it interesting in the second half,” Purple Tigers coach Jeremy Milligan said. “It felt like we were a little more passive and turned the ball over much more; we had nine turnovers in the second half after five in the first. Their full-court pressure caused a couple of those. On a couple of offensive possessions, I felt that we rushed or didn’t make smart choices with the ball.
“But I’m proud of the boys. They held their composure enough to maintain the lead, and making free throws down the stretch helped. Isaiah played a well-balanced game for us. Brian Hughes and Teddy Phillips were assigned defensively to their two biggest offensive threats, Jeremy Richardson and Jeffrey McDuffie, respectively. One key to the first half was that each of them had just two points at halftime.”
Senior guard Richardson, who came in averaging 16 points per game, was held to just six, while backcourt mate McDuffie scored 10, three less than his average coming in. “Both were good enough to get around their primary defender at times, and out defensive help was outstanding,” Milligan said. “To hold that team to 31 points (26 less than its average in its first five games) is a credit to the hustle and defensive intensity we practice and play with.”
“We knew we had to key on McDuffie and Richardson. Our defense leads us to offense,’ said Prior, who noted that the first half was his best of the season. “Coach told us not to take this team for granted, and we didn’t. We kept the pedal down. They pressed us a lot more, pressured our guards, in the second half.”
“We just didn’t shoot well,” ES-M coach Jim Kilpatrick said. “Our two top scorers both had bad nights, but give credit to Cortland. They played phenomenal defense and did a good job of taking us out of our game. The kids did get a little more patient as they understood the defense they were playing against and let the shots come to them, getting more open shots.
“Shooting like we did you won’t beat anybody, but again, one of the reasons for that was their great defense.”
THE SPARTANS WENT 4-for-28 (14 percent) from the field in the first half before picking it up some to finish 11-for-50 (22 percent) for the game. Included was an 0-for-14 performance from behind the 3-point line. The hosts, meanwhile, went 17-for-50 (34 percent) from the floor and made three of their 14 3-point attempts (21 percent).
“We went mostly man-to-man and tried some 21 (half-court press) early, it wasn’t as effective as much as in other games,” Milligan said.
The PurpleTigers were outrebounded 45-34, Gutchess with a team-high eight boards while junior guard Phillips had six rebounds and three steals. Senior center Hughes blocked four shots and had four deflections. ES-M’s individual statistics were not available.
Cortland plays Homer Central Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the first round of its own Cortland Booster Club Holiday Tournament after Marathon and Dryden meet at 5:45 p.m. The consolation game is at 5:45 p.m. Friday, with the championship at 7:30 p.m. A Cortland High alumni game will also take place before the varsity consolation game, all interested players asked to meet in the downstairs gym at 3:30 p.m.
CORTLAND JVs beat ES-M 66-32, a 21-1 second-quarter scoring edge the key to breaking open what had been a close game (19-16) after the first stanza. Sophomore forward Andrew Babcock led the Purple Tigers, now 3-1 league and 5-1 overall, with 16 points, complemented by freshman forward Brett Copes with 12 and sophomore guard Michael Maniaci with 10. Sophomore Connor Gridley had nine points for ES-M.
The Cortland JVs will also open play in their tournament against Homer Central Thursday at 4 p.m. after Dryden and Marathon meet at 2:15 p.m. The championship game is slated to tip off at 2:15 p.m. Friday after the 12:30 p.m. consolation contest.
Sandy Hook in Spotlight
In addition to the varsity teams’ green and white game socks, which came from Eastbay Athletic SportSource, the Cortland cheerleaders wore green and white ribbons in their hair and a large portion of the crowd was dressed in green. Fundraisers for the United Way of Western Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School Support Fund included a donation bucket at the gate, commemorative T-shirts from D & B Sportswear and the total proceeds of the 50-50 raffle.
Milligan singled out game sponsors Janke Family Chiropractic, Meldrim’s Paint Center and Place Insurance as well as the Cortland High and ES-M Athletic Booster Clubs, game announcer Bill Lee and the Cortland Crazies for their support. He also noted that clock operators Joe DiSanto and Bill Kulikowsky plus security personnel Dan Camillo and Duane Robillard all donated their game stipends, and that the idea for the game dedication came from varsity assistant coach Francis Loiacono.
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