October 22, 2021

Purple Tigers rally, top Trojans

SCAC/OHSL Girls’ Basketball

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Homer’s Leah Reiner, center, is guarded by Cortland’s Kathleen Starr, left, and Kaitlyn Pratt in the second quarter of the Purple Tigers’ 51-45 win Friday night.

It was a very interesting chapter in the Cortland High-Homer Central girls’ basketball rivalry when the two teams met on the Trojans’ home court Friday night.

The Purple Tigers rallied from a nine-point first half defici to pull out a 51-45 non-league victory, which put a damper on Homer senior Caley Cornwell becoming the all-time leading scorer in school history when she passed the boys’ all-time leading scorer, John Durkee.

Cornwell finished with 22 points and now has 909 for her career. Durkee had 908 points in his career between 1953 and 1956.

“My family and I wondered what the boys’ record was,” Cornwell said. “We really didn’t know so it was nice that I did it, but I didn’t know about it before the game.”

She had to work for those final five points after putting up 17 in the first half as Homer took 30- 21 lead. Her record-setting point came on a free throw with 1:08 left in the game.

One reason for her second half-scoring struggles was some outstanding defense by the Purple Tigers’Tsai Lewis, who put the clamps on her and scored 12 of her 14 points in that second half as well to aid the comeback.

“Caley Cornwell is a really good player, but I had to do what I had to do,” Lewis said. “I did the best I could and it worked in the end.”

Lewis was proud of her team’s effort.

“When we were down, I know a lot of girls, because this is a rivalry, really wanted to win,” Lewis said. “We had to take it as hard as we could and try our best. We did that and got the W. We have definitely had a lot of losses this year, but this win means a lot to us.”

“We’ve had a tough season, but we are a young team, we start two sophomores,” Cortland coach Nolan Sinclair said. “It is a learning curve for a lot of the girls. We talked about how big a game this is. You throw the records out when you come into a game like this. Caley has been doing that to me for three years now. She is an outstanding player, but our whole halftime talk was about finding Caley and finding Shawnessy (Earle). If we played good defense we had a chance to win. That’s what turned it around for us in the second half.”

Cornwell scored six points in the first 4:30 of the game as Homer (9-9 overall) took an 8-2 lead. Cortland (6-13) put a run together as Ashley Shortsleeve and Lewis nailed 3-pointers and Morgan Tabel, Homer coach Jeff Tabel’s daughter, hit a jumper to tie the game at 10-10. Earle hit a 3-pointer in the final minute as the Trojans were up 13-10 after one quarter.

The hosts couldn’t shake CHS until the final two minutes of the first half. Cornwell drove for a basket and was fouled, adding the free throw for a 24-21 Trojan advantage. Allison Thompson added a free throw, Allison Kristof hit a short jumper and Cornwell buried a 3-pointers to give Homer the 30-21 halftime advantage.

In the third quarter, Cortland went on an 11-4 run in the final five minutes and led 39-38 heading into the fourth. Lewis started the third quarter with a 3-pointer, but it was her drive to the basket that got the run going after an offensive rebound by Lyndsie Babcock the previous possession. Shortsleeve hit a jumper and Tabel got two inside points before Lewis closed out the quarter with another driving bucket and the foul shot that followed.

“We did a great job on the backboard in the third quarter,” Sinclair said. “We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half and gave them second chance opportunities. When you have scorers like Coach Tabel’s team, you can’t give up second chance opportunities so we limited their opportunities on the boards, plus we got a lot of transition points.”

“We all expected to win against Cortland, but we knew it would be a tough game,” Cornwell said. “We get a little bit winded in the second half and Brenna (Johnson) is our pick-me-up. We missed her tonight. I took shots when I had them, but I looked for open teammates also.”

Johnson missed the game due to illness.

“We talked about that at halftime,” Coach Tabel said. “That’s been the monkey on our back all year as far as finishing games in the third and fourth quarters. We have gotten better at that, but reverted back to not finishing tonight.”

Cortland opened the fourth quarter with an 11-1 run that built its lead to 50- 39 with three minutes left. Lewis had two points in the paint and she scored again off an offensive rebound to start the run. Babcock scored inside, Shyanne Lewis added a lay-up off a steal and Shortsleeve knocked down her fourth 3-pointer for the 11-point cushion.

Other than an offensive putback by Abby Wagner, all the remaining Homer points came at the free throw line.

“Cortland is pretty speedy and without Brenna we were at a disadvantage,”Coach Tabel said. “We went more zone, because we didn’t match up as well in man without her.”

Tsai Lewis and Shortsleeve led the winners with 14 points each. Shyanne Lewis scored nine points and Tabel added eight.

In addition to Cornwell, Wagner was next for the Trojans with eight points. Katie Sovocool pulled down a teamhigh 11 rebounds. Earle had eight rebounds and eight points while Cornwell also pulled down six rebounds and had three steals.

“Katie is fast,” Coach Tabel said. “She is sometimes too quick for her own good and that cause her to miss shots. Her quickness gets her into the right spots for rebounds. She has a good nose for the ball.”

“Katie is really quick and she stepped up tonight,” Cornwell added. “She played good defense tonight. We played mostly zone, but she got steals and a lot of rebounds. She was the smallest player on the court and she got more rebounds than our taller players.”

Homer was set to travel to Bishop Grimes today for an OHSL Liberty American Division game, the JV contest set to start at noon. Cortland closes out the season Monday at Christian Brothers Academy, startin g with the 5:30 p.m. JV contest.

“Regardless of the record, I have girls who work hard every day,” Sinclair said. “They work hard in practice and they work hard in the game regardless of what the scoreboard reads. We take each game as it is, it’s one quarter at a time, one game at a time.”

The Homer JVs got the game-winning shot from Gracie Patriarco with 00.3 seconds left, improving to 12-6 overall with a 32-30 double overtime victory over Cortland.

Patriarco scored 14 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Trojans, Jerze Joseph adding nine points while Annika Roos had 12 rebounds. Paige Ludwig had eight points and five rebounds to lead Cortland (9-10). Kirsten Merritt added seven points while Margaret Starr had six points and six steals and Kora Hines six rebounds.

“We knew it would be a game,” Cortland coach Janice Meyer said. “We showed up and made it one. We made some big plays when it mattered but just didn’t put the ball in the basket one more time than they did.”

“It was a good game with Cortland,” Homer coach Cris Colasurdo said. “They are well-coached by Janice. It was nice to see the girls keep working hard.”