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December 29, 2010

 

Purple Tigers clamp down on Homer in 70-44 triumph

Basketball

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Josh Gutchess goes up for a jumper while being guarded by Homer’s Tyler Simonetta in the first quarter of Tuesday’s first round tournament contest. CHS rolled at home, 70-44.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

Not that Cortland High boys were ever in serious basketball trouble in the opening round of the Royal Motor Group Holiday Tournament.
The Purple Tigers never trailed on their Shafer Gymnasium home floor while knocking off next door neighbor and winless Homer Central by a lopsided 70-44 margin Tuesday night, advancing into this evening’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against Marathon.
But the unbeaten tournament hosts weren’t completely satisfied until the defense really clamped down on the Trojans, the Purple Tigers at their tenacious best in the third quarter while building up a 39-point lead.
Four CHS starters finished in double figures, junior guard Qwuhail Barlow and junior center Brandon Babcock leading the way with 13 points apiece, to put away the Trojans in a contest that doubled as an OHSL Freedom Division regular season affair.
Junior guard and 11-point contributor Jonathan Prior scored off the opening tip controlled by Babcock, and made another lay-up seconds later after Barlow forced a Trojan turnover, to quickly set the tone for the evening. Cortland went on a 14-0 run midway through the second quarter and added a 13-zip burst in the third stanza — when the Trojans were limited to five points — to really spoil things for the visitors.
“Usually Homer plays its best game of the year against us. We all knew that and we still prepared for them just as hard as any other team,” said 6-foot-4 forward Justin Hogan, the lone senior starter who provided 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals to Cortland’s third Freedom Division victory without a stumble this season.
“If we went against J-D (Jamesville-DeWitt) or Homer, we’d still go in with the same intensity, looking to dive on the floor,” Hogan added. “We wanted to show the difference between Cortland basketball and Homer basketball, and I think we did that tonight.”
Homer, now 0-3 in the Freedom Division and 0-4 overall, was out-scored 42-14 over the second and third quarters. Sophomore guard Casey Cleary had 11 points including a trio of 3-pointers and junior Brent Quinlan came off the bench to add 10 points for the Trojans, while a 19-point fourth quarter provided some encouragement to take into today’s 5:30 p.m. consolation game against Dryden.
“We were competitive at times. We need to be competitive from beginning to end,” said first-year Homer coach Sean Malone, the former Tully High point guard and SUNY Cortland soccer player. “We have to take care of the basketball. The biggest thing that hurts us is our turnovers.”
THE TROJANS HAD 15 or their 26 turnovers in the first half against the lengthy Purple Tigers, though Cortland coach Mick Lowie was not all that happy with his side’s defensive demeanor until the third quarter.
“We were really just much more concerned about ourselves, just playing hard, making things as difficult for them as we could,” said Lowie of the game plan coming in for a CHS squad that had not played a game in the past 10 days. “We just wanted to make it very difficult for them, and when you see guys shooting uncontested shots that’s not acceptable.”
Homer made five of 11 shots in the opening quarter, yet still trailed 22-11. The Trojans fell behind 43-20 once half-time arrived, and things didn’t get better after the break.
“I thought the third quarter was a good statement in terms of the defense we’re capable of playing,” said Cortland’s Lowie. “It was just straight man-to-man, there was nothing fancy there. Just pick their guards up full court and make them work all their way up the floor and try to make entries difficult. I said don’t worry about the offense. You play some defense and the offense will take care of itself.”
Lowie stressed those points at half-time, and CHS responded.
“He told us we needed to be more intense and we needed to talk better. We hadn’t been talking much,” said Hogan of his coach’s half-time instructions. “I think in the second half we did a much better job of talking. The bench really, really stepped it up and communicated with us. We’d have a guy come to the corner and if we didn’t see it the guys on the bench would say ‘Hogan, Hogan, you’ve got one there.’ They were like a third coach, I guess.”
Not that Homer has had much offensive success this season against anybody. The Trojans came into the game averaging just 36 points per game.
“We struggle sometimes to run the offense,” admitted Coach Malone of his Trojans. “We’re still learning to play basketball. It’s a process.”
CHS DOESN’T HAVE those offensive problems.
Barlow was a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor with three of those shots 3-pointers, while both Hogan and Babcock were 4-for-7 shooting the ball. The Purple Tigers shot just over 50 percent as a team while getting points from 12 different players.
Coach Lowie was also pleased with Babcock’s patience while drawing plenty of defensive attention underneath, the 6-foot-4 center with nine rebounds, five assists and four steals on the night. Starter J.P. Reagan added three assists and four steals, and CHS could afford to rest Prior for most of the second half after he twisted his knee in the second quarter.
Though Lowie was unhappy with the six-point fourth quarter production from his bench, this was a good win before going up against gritty Marathon — a 65-57 winner over Dryden in the other first round contest (see separate story). He hopes his team is ready for the different things Marathon coach Jim Holland comes up with on defense.
“One of the things we have to do is adjust to what he’s doing and not get confused and frustrated and continue to attack the basket,” said Lowie. “There’s no magic to the game plan. We’re doing the same thing we always do. We’re going inside to Babcock and inside to Hogan and see how they defend it.”
“For me, I know all the guys. I’ve played AAU ball with them,” said Hogan of facing Marathon. “I was down there just the other day talking to number 44, Tylor Knickerbocker, one of my best friends. We were talking about wanting to play in the championship and it’s here. I’m really looking forward to it.”

 

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