Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Homer’s Caley Cornwell drives past Cortland High defenders Paige Potter (11) and Logan Chase (3) during Monday’s court rivalry.
Homer Central girls’ basketball coach Jeff Tabel’s team paid attention to his court philosophy Monday night in a non-league game against host Cortland High.
“I always say, ‘Bury your free throws and bury the game,’” an obviously pleased Tabel said, “and we buried our free throws.”
Largely as a result, Tabel’s squad pulled away from a 30-30 tie with just over four minutes left at Shafer Gymnasium and beat the Purple Tigers 43-34, the first win by a Trojans varsity team over CHS in 16 years.
“I told the girls, ‘Stay strong with the ball and make them come after you… they’re after the ball. Then make your free throws.’ Cortland plays such good defense. They started in zone but we got used to that, so they went man-to-man the rest of the night,” Tabel added.
The more experienced Homer team, now 5-3 on the season, went on a 13-4 run over those last four minutes, with seven their points in that stretch coming from the foul line — 9-for-14 all told in the fourth quarter.
After senior guard Cary Trierweiler made two free throws with 3:53 left to give her team the lead for good, senior guard/forward Macy Boice hit two field goals in a row to put her team up 36-30.
Cortland sophomore guard Morgan Tabel, coach Tabel’s daughter, drained a shot to make it 36-32 with 2:35 left, but the Trojans sewed it up with 2:02 remaining as junior guard/forward Brenna Johnson made the first of two free throws and junior forward Caley Cornwell followed up a missed second shot with a rebound basket to make it a 39-32 game.
Two free throws by CHS senior guard Logan Chase with 59.6 seconds left were followed by four Homer free throws down the stretch for the final margin — one by Boice, two by sophomore forward Shawnessy Earle and the final point of the game by Cornwell, who had a game-high 14 points and also led the Trojans in rebounding with eight.
“It’s exhilarating,” Cornwell said of the win over her team’s rival. “It’s great, especially for the seniors, who had never beaten Cortland. I can’t imagine how they feel. I set the goal for myself of boxing out and getting as many rebounds as I can. I don’t care as much about points, I just want to get rebounds.
“We won by playing hard, diving for the ball and defensively; our shots were not falling.”
The young Cortland squad, with just three seniors on the roster, fell to 1-6 with the loss. In those seven games the Purple Lions haven’t given up more than 45 points, Syracuse CBA hitting that mark last Wednesday in a 45-20 win.
On the other hand, the Purple Tigers have a single-game high of 37 points this season and after Monday are averaging just 27.7 points per contest.
“Defense is always our strength,” CHS coach Nolan Sinclair said. “Very rarely do we get outworked. We made some big shots in the second hand and got to the line (going 4-for-5 in the second half). At halftime we had a heart-to-heart and told them that x’s and o’s meant nothing, that it was about heart, hustle and determination. These girls don’t give up.
“We switched from zone to man-to-man because it was tough rotating out on their quick guards. They did a good job of going high-low and pushing our posts out to the corner, and did a good job of finishing. Homer’s a good team, tough to guard, and coach Tabel does a good job with that team.”
The Trojans led 10-3 after one quarter before the Purple Tigers used a 7-0 run starting out the second quarter to pull to within one, 10-9. Senior guard Margaret Reagan drained a 3-pointer with 3:35 left in the second to give the hosts their first lead, 15-14, before Homer scored the last eight points of the quarter — four each from Cornwell and Johnson — to take a 22-15 lead into halftime.
Both teams started the third quarter out slowly, and a jumper by Chase with 3:25 left marked the first points of the period, which ended with the Trojans up 26-22. Two free throws by sophomore guard Tsai Lewis and a layup by Morgan Tabel tied the game at 26-26 just 59 seconds into the second half, and after a free throw by Cornwell, Lewis hit a shot to make it 28-27 for CHS with 6:07 left.
A field goal by senior center Emily McNeill and a free throw by Trierweiler gave Homer a 30-28 lead before Reagan hit a jumper to knot the game at 30-30 with 4:10 left and set the stage for the finish.
In addition to her scoring and rebounding, Cornwell also had eight steals and four assists. Boice had 11 points and Johnson seven for the winners.
“Beating your rival is exhilarating,” said Jeff Tabel, who now has done it as coach of both the Homer girls’ and boys’ teams. “his will be an energy boost for us, possibly.”
Cortland was led by Reagan and Chase with 10 points each, Chase also pulling down 10 rebounds for a double-double. Lewis had nine points and Morgan Tabel eight points and four steals for CHS.
“My daughter killed us,” coach Tabel said with a smile. “She played her best game so far this season and she just needs to keep it up so they can get rolling.”
CORTLAND JVs beat Homer 38-34 to improve to 2-4 as Shyanne Lewis led the way with 17 points and Ashley Shortsleeve added 12. Abby Wagner’s nine points and six from Jerze Joseph led Homer (4-4).
Cortland’s teams visit Bishop Grimes Thursday starting with the JV game at 5:30 p.m. Homer’s squads are at Jamesville-DeWitt the same night starting with the 6 p.m. JV contest.