It was anything but easy for the Cortland girls’ varsity basketball team Friday night in its nonleague encounter with Homer, which was playing at home for the first time this season.
The Purple Tigers took a 12-point lead midway through the third quarter, only to have the Trojans tie the game late. Cortland scored eight of the final 10 points for a 52-46 victory to improve to 2-1 on the season. Homer falls to 1-2 overall.
Tsai Lewis helped Cortland take a 27-22 halftime lead with 10 of her 17 points. With the score tied at 44-44 with 2:03 left, Lewis delivered two big buckets and a crucial free throw with 7.3 seconds remaining for a 50-46 edge to seal the victory.
“Before the game started we always have a team talk and I told the girls to always put in 110 percent and leave everything on the floor,” Lewis said. “That’s what we did. We did everything we could to get the win.”
As for handling the pressure down the stretch, Lewis said she was just doing what she needed to do.
“It’s hard when the team relies on you a lot because you want to live up to their expectations,” she said. “I just always try to do the best I can.”
“We knew Homer was a young team,” Cortland coach Nolan Sinclair said. “They are relentless and work very hard. We knew it would be a battle. It’s Cortland-Homer, you don’t care what gym you play in, you throw out the records, you throw out the stats, you know it’s going to be a battle. We had a tough game last week against Watertown where we gave away a lead and lost by two. We talked all week long about being mentally prepared for Homer. It slipped early in the second half, but we got it back and did what we needed to do to win.”
“We knew at the beginning of the season that Tsai and Lyndsie (Babcock) would be our leaders. They are our captains. ‘T’ has had three big games for us with 20, 25 and 17 points. She’s a great scorer, really athletic and a great all-around girl and player.”
Lewis finished the night with six rebounds and two steals to go with her game-high 17 points. Shyanne Lewis added 10 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals while Babcock had five points and 15 rebounds. Kaitlyn Pratt came off the bench to score six points and grab five rebounds as Paige Ludwig left the game early with an upper leg injury and never returned.
“We leaned heavily on Lyndsie and Kaitlyn,” Sinclair said. “Kaitlyn had a huge game for us in the post. We went a little smaller too with Ashley Shortsleeve, Elyssa Yonta, Gabby Fowler and Marissa Gilmore. The girls off the bench did a great job for us.”
“We are a very young team,” Homer coach C.J. Kudla said. “We got off to a little bit of a slow start before getting into a groove and battling back. These girls fight, they don’t stop, they are warriors and that’s what we want to emulate in a Homer girls’ basketball program. We got down by 12 and could have packed it in, but we fought back, made some shots and got back into the game.”
Cortland held a 7-6 lead with three minutes left in the first quarter before Tsai Lewis scored on a lay-up and a total of five free throws helped Cortland build a 14-6 cushion before a Jerze Joseph 3-pointer for Homer cut the lead to 14-9. The teams played evenly through the second half as the Purple Tigers maintained a 27-22 cushion.
Katie Sovocool opened the second half scoring with a driving lay-up as Homer closed to within 27-24, but Cortland netted 11 of the next 13 points for a 38-26 advantage with 4:28 left in the quarter. Shayanne Lewis began the run with a 3-pointer and Shortsleeve capped it with her own trey. Babcock had two buckets during the run.
The Trojans went on an 8-0 to close the gap to 38-34 with 1:43 left in the third quarter. Gracie Patriarco made three of four free throws; Joseph had a steal, lay-up and foul shot, plus Shawnessy Earle buried a 3- pointer in this run. The Purple Tigers led 41-36 as the quarter ended.
Two Patriarco free throws and a bucket by Allie Thompson pulled Homer to within 41-40 early in the fourth quarter. Abby Wagner banked home an offensive putback with 2:03 remaining to even the score at 44- 44 for the Trojans and set up the exciting finish.
Wagner finished the game with nine points and eight rebounds for Homer. Patriarco had a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds plus eight steals. Joseph netted 10 and recorded three steals for the Trojans.
“Abby Wagner has been by far the best leader among the seniors on this team,” Kudla said. “The seniors have taken on a role that they never have had to do before. It’s a new coach and a new system. We like to play really fast. The senior class can’t play as fast as the young girls do right now. Abby has taken her role in stride. She represents our program and her family in the best way possible. I am proud to have her on this basketball team.”
Homer is back in OHSL action Monday at Cazenovia with a 5:30 p.m. JV start. Cortland High will visit Dryden Tuesday in non-league play, starting with the 5:30 p.m. JV contest.
The Cortland JVs jumped out to a 13-0 lead and cruised in their 36-15 win over Homer to improve to 3-0 on the season.
While the points were down from the first two games, the defense was improved for Cortland.
“We really wanted to focus on defense and that did take away a little bit from our offense,” Cortland coach Janice Meyer said. “I was a little disappointed offensively because we put up 60 points twice this year. We wanted to get a lead and really focus on defense, which is what we did. We got some of the girls on the bench some good time on the floor in this game.”
For Homer (1-2), it was too big a hole after the quick start by the Purple Tigers.
“Cortland is so quick,” Homer coach Cris Colasurdo said. “They did a great job with their fast break and we simply struggled to get down on them. They got a number of easy baskets. We struggled to get open shots and, when we did, we missed them. We just had trouble getting ourselves settled.”
Kirsten Merritt and Margaret Starr led a balanced Cortland attack with nine points each. Sadie Urtz added eight points while Ryleigh Larkin pulled down 10 rebounds and scored five points off the bench. Sarah Sovocool paced Homer with five points.