October 25, 2021

Homer rides swarming ‘D’ to big victory

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HOMER — The Homer Trojans put together another stifling defensive performance with 25 steals and held the Cortland Purple Tigers to just one point in the second quarter en route to a 5735 victory Wednesday afternoon at Homer High.

Catherine Apker led the Trojans with 22 points, 10 rebounds, five steals and two assists. Gracie Patriarco added 16 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists. Katlyn Sovocool had seven points, six steals, five assists and four rebounds. Sarah Sovcool chipped in seven points, 10 rebounds and four steals.

The game started out competitively enough, with the Purple Tigers using a 7-0 run to get out to an 11-4 first quarter lead. But the Trojans answered with a 9-0 run, using a combination of turnovers, transition baskets and free throws to take a 13-11 lead and send Adrianna Murphy (six points) and Margaret Starr (nine points) to the bench with two early fouls.

The Purple Tigers snapped out of that rut quickly, however, with a Kirsten Merritt (team-leading 11 points) three-pointer that ended the first quarter with Cortland on top, 14-13.

But the Trojans got back to the formula that gave them their first-quarter lead and started the second quarter on a 9-0 run that gave them the lead for good. A single Purple Tiger free throw put an end to that run, but the Trojans were only getting started. They began nailing their midrange and three-point shots to finish the half on a 13-0 run.

“We failed to execute today on what we knew would work,” Cortland coach Janice Meyer said. “It came down to following a game plan and we did not. We got in foul trouble early again, which gets us away from a plan and put some players in a new role or position that we have not had the time to get them ready for. This season is truly a season where we need five players on the floor on the same page.”

Homer outscored Cortland in the second quarter, 22-1.

“We played with a ton of poise and control on offense again today,” Homer coach C.J. Kudla said. “Cortland is very well coached and a very sound team. They have some very good guard play and some other long athletes that can get it up and down the court. I thought our defensive pressure was the difference maker. We just play outstanding defense.”

Defense has become Homer’s trademark. When Kudla took the helm of the Trojans three years ago, he told his players “if we’re going to ever become successful, you girls need to learn how to play aggressive, team defense.”

That was when most of his players were eighth graders, freshmen and sophomores. Now, as sophomores, juniors and seniors, Kudla said “we’re reaping the fruit of our labor. It’s really incredible to see and be a part of.”

Meyer praised the senior leadership of Paige Ludwig and Adrianna Murphy throughout the game even with the large deficit, and added “My hope is we get a second go on Saturday, we tune in on what works so we can be successful for round two.”