WATERTOWN – The Cortland High boys’ varsity basketball team hit the road Saturday for a non-league game at Watertown and it proved to be a good trip.
Noah Armstrong pumped in 22 points and Jaden Fitch added 16 points as the Purple Tigers rolled to a 70-48 victory over the Cyclones. Cortland improved to 5-2 overall. Watertown dropped to 4-4.
The game started slowly for Cortland who trailed 17-14 after one quarter. The Purple Tigers only took 10 shots in the quarter, but did make five of those shots. Four of the makes came from beyond the arc with two each from Armstrong and Max Gambitta.
Watertown only made six of 20 shots in the opening quarter which proved costly to the Cyclones overall.
Cortland continued to shoot well and the defense began to limit the Watertown offensive efforts. The Purple Tigers took a 30-24 lead into the half-time locker room and continued to pull away during the second half. Cortland pushed it advantage to 48-35 through three quarters and netted 22 points in the fourth quarter to seal the comfortable win. The Purple Tigers were 7 for 13 shooting in the second quarter before going 8 for 15 from the eld in the third quarter and again in the fourth quarter. That’s 28 for 53 (52.8 percent) for the game.
“The “light bulb” seems to be going off for several of our players,” Cortland coach Jeremy Milligan said. “For a team that had not a single player return with consistent varsity minutes, I feel like we are ahead of the curve of where I anticipated us to be. This is a great feeling. Kudos to Coach Murph (Tom Murphy) and all his time preparing the players last year on JV, Coach (Tom) Neugebauer (varsity assistant) for all his time he puts in during the season preparing our squad and in the off-season, and a major shout out to our entire team for their focus, work ethic, and ability to compete day in day out in practice helping each other to improve.”
The turning point in the game came in the second quarter when Purple Tiger forward Colter Gohs went down with an injury. Fitch, playing just his third game since coming back from a football injury, came off the bench for just the spark needed. His 16 points are a career high, plus he grabbed six rebounds and handed out three assists.
“It was great to see Jaden come off the bench and make positive contributions,” Milligan said. “We anticipated him ready to make defensive contributions using his athleticism and competitive drive, but for him to come in and drop 16, that was awesome.”
It was also a switch from man-to-man defense to more 2-3 zone for the Purple Tigers to limit the scoring of Ryan Peters and offensive penetration by Marlon Hinds-Ventour.
“We played some 2-3 zone though it’s not something we play often,”Milligan said. “The team did okay. At the half, we discussed staying in a 2-3 to be able to better contain Hinds-Ventour and to be able to better identify the shooter, Peters. The team seemed eager to challenge themselves with more 2-3 in the second half.”
“Offensively we also discussed the need to work the ball into high post area and then be prepared to quickly dump the ball low, a high to low entry. We felt that the interior defense and rotations for Watertown were weak. We really did an excellent job of picking apart their zone. Our players are coming along and understanding the court spacing, movement and reads within our various zone offensive scheme. It’s been great to see our progression game after game.”
Armstrong continues his strong play as he added five rebounds, four assists, one blocked shot and one steal to his 22 points. Max Gambitta chipped in with 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocked shots.
Hinds-Ventour finished the game with 15 points to lead Watertown. Peters was held to 14 points for the Cyclones.
Cortland will face two important SCAC Empire Division opponents this week. The Purple Tigers will host Auburn Tuesday for a 6:45 p.m. tip. Cortland will travel to Central Square Friday for a 7 p.m. contest.