January 18, 2013
Historic sweep for Purple Tigers
CHS upends J-D for 2nd time this season
The Cortland High boys’ basketball team made some history, and most likely ended some as well, Thursday night.
The Purple Tigers took the lead for good late in a fast-paced, see-saw first half and went on to beat visiting rival Jamesville-DeWitt 70-56.
It was CHS’s second win over the defending sectional champion Red Rams this season, the first by the final score of 57-53 on the road Dec. 14. It also marked the first time anyone involved in the program could remember scoring two victories over J-D in a single season.
The win also enabled Cortland to improve to 8-1 in the league (12-1 overall) and dropped the young Red Rams — with only four seniors, two of whom start — to 5-3 in the division and 6-6 overall. The Purple Tigers thus clinched at least a tie for the OHSL Freedom American Division championship, needing either a win in one of their last two games — at Mexico Feb. 1 or home against Syracuse CBA 10 days later— or a loss by J-D to wear the crown by themselves.
That would end an impressive 13-year streak of league or division championships for the Red Rams, a stunning run that also included eight sectional crowns and five state titles.
Senior guard Isaiah Prior led the way for the winners, scoring a game-high 24 points to go along with nine rebounds, five assists, three blocked shots and four deflections. he was complemented by junior guard Whelan with 16 points, five rebounds and two deflections and senior center Brian Hughes with 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three deflections.
“THE PRIORS HAVE been our neighbors since 2007 and I’ve seen all of the boys out in the street playing ball,” Cortland coach Jeremy Milligan said. “It’s special for me to be able to coach Isaiah his senior year and to see all the success he’s had. He’s very dangerous on the court, with the ability to both drive and shoot from behind the 3-point line.
“He wasn’t just productive points-wise for us on offense tonight; he was all over the court on both ends, contributing in different ways.”
“We knew that if we executed on offense and played great defense we’d be perfectly fine,” said Prior, deflecting any chance to talk about his own performance in favor of the team concept. “Some people thought our first game against them was lucky; we had a lot to prove, that we’re a better team than they are.”
“Coming in, we wanted to limit their two top players, Dom DeRegis and Jafar Kinsey,” Milligan said. “We put (junior guard) Teddy Phillips on DeRegis and Brian on Kinsey. We knew that DeRegis likes to shoot 3-pointers, and we gave him a little too much space in the first half, when he hit four of them,”
That hot start got sophomore DeRiegis started on a 21-point night.
“Brian did an outstanding job on Kinsey, who had 12 points,” added Milligan of holding down the J-D junior guard. “And (sophomore guard) Sage Brown gave us some quality minutes when Teddy got into foul trouble, with a couple of assists and a couple of steals.”
“They hot a lot of threes in the first half — we had to extend our man-to-man — and coach told us to keep up the defensive intensity and get a hand in the face of the shooter,” Hughes said.
“Our goal was to hold them to single digits in at least one quarter, and we did that in the third,” he added of the juncture where the game was actually decided, as J-D managed just five points. “Holding Jafar to 12 points as a key, too.”
BOTH TEAMS WERE torrid from the floor to start the game, no more than three points separating them as Prior hit a pair of 3-pointers and DeRegis had three to help give the visitors a 25-23 lead at the end of the stanza. The Red Rams took their biggest lead of the game at 31-27 as junior guard Rasheed Baker hit from the right corner 3:42 before halftime.
CHS came back, though, and after a 3-pointer by Prior made it a 35-34 game with 1:56 left, took the lead for good on a transition basket by Whelan with a minute remaining. Hughes hit two late free throws before Prior’s layup at the buzzer gave the hosts a 40-35 halftime lead.
An 11-5 third-quarter advantage gave the Purple Tigers a 51-40 lead heading into the final eight minutes DeRegis’s final 3-pointer 2:07 in the first points of the final stanza to make it 51-43. The Red Rams would get no closer; Cortland took its biggest lead, 59-45, on a free throw by Prior with 3:15 left. Prior and Whelan each had seven points in the fourth, Prior with five from the foul line and Whelan with a pair of 3-pointers.
“First of all Cortland is a great team, maybe the best-kept secret in the area this year. I ran into Mick (Lowie, the long-time CHS coach who retired from the position in May) during the off-season, and he told me there were two or three kids who were good but couldn’t get that much playing time last year because of the people playing ahead of them. They play together, shoot well and play tough defense. Jeremy does a great job, and he had a great mentor.
“We broke down in the third, got sticky with the ball on offense; we couldn’t keep playing at the pace we did in the first half. Both teams flattened out a little. I think in a big game like this, some of our kids got nervous, and Cortland always plays us well here. Prior had a great game for them; he came in with 11 3-pointers on the season and got three tonight.”
J-D DIDN’T HAVE starter Jeff Edwards available the first time the two teams met, which was part of the reason that some believed, as Prior noted, that CHS was lucky in that one. The senior guard-forward played this time around, and finished with nine points.
“This is like the beginning of the year for him,” McKenney said of his senior guard-forward. “He looked a little tired to me; he was short on every short, it seemed, after the first quarter. I probably let him go for stretched that were a little too long.
“We’re a young team, and we’re looking to get better, hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Cortland had a 38-34 rebounding advantage in the contest. In addition to Prior and Hughes, Phillips and senior forward Josh Gutchess with five boards apiece, a total that Kinsey matched to lead the visitors.
“I think some people believe that J-D’s run of talent is over,” Milligan said. “That’s far from the truth. They have a young team, and Bob does a good job. DeRegis and Kinsey are both juniors, and they have a strong JV team. They may be having a little bit of a down year, but no doubt they’ll continue to be very, very competitive in the league.
“After we lost to Ludden and came out a little flat on Tuesday (in beating visiting Fowler), we knew we had a battle coming into this one. I was proud of how we kept our composure and executed our game plan. Now we can’t have a letdown; we have a target on our backs, and everyone will be giving us their best game.”
“Winning this game is the best feeling, beating a team that’s done so well winning league, sectional and state titles,” Prior said. “This was big, to prove to ourselves that we’re still strong.”
“Coach Miller came in and talked to us this week,” Hughes said in reference to Rick Miller, Lowie’s long-time assistant who also retired after last season. “He told us how Cortland had never beaten J-D twice in a season since we got into the same league again. The psychological part of this game is really important to us.
“We’ve worked hard in practice this week. Vadim (Shevchuk, senior center) was the one player we had to key on the whole practice. He started to go off on us (as the reserves ran J-D’s offensive sets) and we had to tighten our defense. That helped us in this game.”
CORTLAND JVs lost to J-D 82-61 and are now 7-2 in the league and 11-2 overall. Freshman guard Brett Copes had 23 points and sophomore center Jack Hearn 10 for the Purple Tigers, while the Red Rams, who hit a total of 16 3-pointers in the game, got 19 points from Isaiah Williams, 16 from Brian Cieplicki, 14 from Benjamin Wipper and 12 from Matthew Murad.
Both CHS squads step out of league play to go against Oneida in their next two games, on the road Saturday in an 11 a.m. JV start and at home Jan. 30 for Cancer Dedication night, the JV tipoff set for 5:30 p.m.
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