OSWEGO – The Cortland High boys’ varsity basketball team opened its season with a thrilling 38-36 SCAC Empire Division victory at Oswego by withstanding a furious Buccaneers’ rally in the fourth quarter.
The Purple Tigers took a 10-2 lead in the first quarter and slowly increased their advantage to 31-20 by the end of the third quarter. Cortland went cold in the fourth quarter shooting two for eight from the field, one make a 3-pointer by Max Gambitta, while Oswego (0-2 division and overall) netted 16 points to finish two points back at the final buzzer.
“I was thrilled for the boys who have been working hard in practice,” Cortland coach Jeremy Milligan said. “To win a league game on the road in the SCAC is never easy to do. Once Oswego came all the way back to take the lead late in the nal quarter, our players could have given up. Instead, we competed, showed some grit, and found a way to squeak one out.”
With the eight point lead after one quarter, the Purple Tigers increased their lead to 21-11 by halftime. Cortland did turn the ball over 11 times in the first half, but that could be chalked up to first game jitters of a young team.
“Overall, I was very pleased with our first half effort and execution with such an inexperienced team,” Milligan said. “The boys played selfless and really got after it defensively. We discussed our need to take care of the ball and cut back on our unforced turnovers.”
Cortland kept its double digit lead through three quarters before Oswego changed defensive tactics in the final quarter. The Buccaneers started to apply some full court pressure and began to trap out of the 3-2 zone in the corners.
“We struggled to make quick decisions and process the trap that was happening, resulting in several turnovers,” Milligan said. “Oswego capitalized on these turnovers at the offensive end with some made three point buckets and some fast break lay-ups off of turnovers. Before we knew it, our lead was erased and Oswego was knocking at the door.”
Gambitta didn’t look like it was his first varsity game as his second 3-pointer of the game came after Oswego had taken a 35-33 lead with less than two minutes to play. With Cortland back in front 36-35, Noah Armstrong sank two free throws in the final minute to seal the Purple Tigers victory.
Both teams had balanced scoring. Armstrong and Tyler Blake each just missed double-doubles for Cortland. Armstrong had 10 points and nine rebounds with Blake netting nine points while pulling down 10 rebounds. More importantly, Blake held Oswego’s Michael Douglas to just five points, all from the free throw line.
“Tyler skyed for some clutch rebounds down the stretch preventing Oswego from second chances in his first ever varsity game, while also locking down Douglass and helping to keep him field goals less on the game,” Milligan said.
Oswego got 10 points from Garrett Besaw. Keyon Johnston added seven points.
Cortland has a week off before traveling to Jamesville-DeWitt next Friday for a 7 p.m. SCAC Empire Division contest.