January 30, 2013
Cortland shows up at Homer
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cortland High’s Taylor Tabel (22) drives the lane against the Homer defense in the first quarter of Tuesday’s OHSL Freedom Division game. Visiting CHS won, 61-34.
In what has been an up and down season for the Cortland High girls’ basketball team, Coach Dick Penoyer has at times not known which Purple Tiger squad will show up.
CHS’s records heading into Tuesday night’s game at Homer Central — 4-7 in the OHSL Freedom American Division and 6-8 overall — were evidence of the inconsistency with which Cortland has played this winter.
Against their neighbors to the north on this night, though, the Purple Tigers put on a performance that left Penoyer happy, recovering from a two-point deficit after the first quarter to win going away 61-34.
“The kids played well tonight,” Penoyer said. “They were looking forward to this game, were excited about playing, and it showed on the court. We made some fast-break baskets and shot well from the outside; that’s a difference between this team and others I’ve had in the past — we’re tough from the outside and can shoot much better. But when we got open early we didn’t shoot well.
“For whatever reason, our man-to-man full-court press worked. Julia Babjack was back and that gives us an added spark,” he added, he senior guard having been unavailable for Friday’s 52-32 loss to visiting Cazenovia.
Senior center Devon Tennant was the exception to Penoyer’s observation about his team not shooting well early, scoring the winners’ first eight points, four inside and four on jump shots from farther out, en route to a game-high 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds for a double-double, plus two blocked shots. But the Trojans were able to get her into early foul trouble — she picked up her second foul late in the opening stanza and was forced to sit — and when freshman guard Madison Dimorier sank a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, it gave the hosts a 12-10 lead heading into the second quarter.
“Give Homer credit, they came out blazing,” Tennant said. “Coach told us that they’d gotten better since our first game against them (a 43-17 home win on Dec. 7), and their record shows it. That’s one of the better Homer teams I’ve seen in my four years on varsity. They play well as a team.”
“This team’s improved a great deal, especially offensively,” said Trojans coach Chris DiFulvio, his squad now 2-9 league and 3-12 overall. “We shot 37 percent on 2-pointers and 40 percent on 3-pointers in the first half, but at the end of the game we were at 24 percent on 2-pointers. We missed a ton of layups and had a poor shooting second quarter. Then we had our worst quarter of the season in the (scoreless) fourth.
“We got Tennant in foul trouble both games, and both times when she came out, Cortland played better. And both times she came back strong in the second half.”
With its top scorer on the bench for much of the second quarter, Cortland was able to grab the lead for good, scoring the first 10 points of the period and not allowing Homer to score until 3:35 had elapsed. Tennant did get back in and scored the winners’ last five points of the first half, including a 3-pointer with two seconds left that gave her team a 31-20 halftime lead.
“We all had to get the same mindset,” Tennant said. “Coach said at the half that some of our players weren’t going as hard as others and that we needed to step it up. They got a run in the third and played great; we had to get things back under control, and did. Our guards did a nice job of ball movement, which helped a lot. We hadn’t lost to Homer in the time I’ve been on varsity, and I wasn’t going to let it happen my senior year.”
“When we needed to pick it up, Devon did that,” Babjack said. “She made a lot of important shots for us, and we played hard on defense. Homer is definitely a lot better now, and we always get nervous playing them. That’s a hard-working team that can pull out a win.”
CHS had its biggest lead, 41-27, after junior forward Cassondra Hathaway hit a jumper with 2:18 left in the third, but a seven-point surge that started with a 3-pointer by freshman guard Hannah Casey brought the hosts back to within seven, at 41-34, with what proved to be their last points of the game. After a timeout by Penoyer, freshman guard Jackie Phillips canned a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 44 seconds left to give CHS a 10-point lead heading into the fourth, and the winners built on that in the fourth, scoring 17 points and holding the Trojans scoreless.
“One thing we’ve been able to do this season because we’re such a deep team is go with a speed lineup or a size lineup,” DiFulvio said of his team’s comeback. “With the speed lineup in we went to the press and were able to get it down to seven. The major thing that hurt us was all the extra possessions we gave them; we had 22 turnovers (to the visitors’ 10), too high to compete in this league.
“They were able to practice yesterday and we weren’t after the school closed (due to the weather). We installed our game plan in the cafeteria tonight. We came out and did a good job in the first. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to be (competitive) in nine games, and we’ve reached that goal.”
A surprised Penoyer said “I don’t really know” when asked how the Purple Tigers had pitched the fourth-quarter shutout. “We didn’t do anything differently than we had. We mixed defenses to try to confuse them the whole night, with a half-court trap, man-to-man full-court and half-court and a 2-3 zone, which they picked apart a little.
“They play hard defensively and are shooting better; that wasn’t the Homer team we’ve seen in the past.”
In addition to Tennant, Phillips had 11 points and three steals, Babjack 10 points and three steals and freshman guard Shea Swartwout nine. Junior forward Kasey McGrath led Homer with 10 points, while Dimorier and junior guard Gail Van Valkenburg added seven apiece, the latter now with 106 points total and, as DiFulvio noted, the first Trojan to top 100 points this season. Junior forward Carly Dove and junior center Kailee Dimorier had six rebounds each for the hosts, who had 29 boards in all to 39 for Cortland.
CORTLAND JVs beat Homer 37-31, improving to 7-5 league and 10-5 overall with their third straight victory as sophomore guard Chickie Artis led the way with 15 points. Sophomore forward Delaney Marshall added eight, sophomore guard Talia Cruz six and freshman guard Emily Edwards five. Homer (5-10 overall) was led by eight points from freshman Emily Aloi, six from sophomore Megan Neuman and five from sophomore Natalie Partigianoni.
Both Purple Tiger squads visit Mexico Friday, the JVs starting things off at 5:30 p.m. Homer’s teams host Jamesville-DeWitt on Friday, with the JV tipoff set for 5 p.m.
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