December 6, 2021

Purple Tigers finish strong to top Lakers

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CORTLAND — For the first three quarters, Monday night’s game between the Cortland Purple Tigers and the Cazenovia Lakers saw both teams trading runs, trading baskets and not allowing the other to get much separation.

But the Purple Tigers had just a bit more left in the tank in the fourth quarter to pull away to a comfortable 59-48 victory at Cortland High.

Cazenovia’s Alex Moesch led all scorers with 28 points on 11of-22 shooting, but he was the only Laker in double figures. The Purple Tigers had three players in double-digit points — Noah Armstrong (15 points, six rebounds), Max Gambitta (15 points, five assists, three steals) and Tyler Blake (14 points, 10 rebounds).

The game started out with potential to be a burner — the Purple Tigers went on a 7-0 run, only to be answered by an 8-0 run by the Lakers. Eventually, the Purple Tigers would pull ahead to a 22-16 lead after eight minutes. Cazenovia managed to take the lead briefly in the second quarter before the Purple Tigers regained the lead going into halftime.

Then both teams seemed to hit a wall offensively in the second and third quarters. The Purple Tigers scored just nine points in the second quarter, compared to 12 for the Lakers, making it a one possession game, 31-28.

Neither team was revitalized offensively by the halftime break, as the Purple Tigers extended their lead, but only by outscoring the Lakers 9-7 in the third quarter to go up 40-35.

The fourth quarter was the Purple Tigers’ time to shine, particularly Blake, who scored 11 of his 14 points in the final frame.

“A big difference down the stretch for us was that Tyler started to finish around the hoop,” Purple Tigers coach Jeremy Milligan said. “Up until the fourth, Tyler was 1-of-9 from the floor. He seemed to lose confidence but his teammates helped him remain calm and helped him stay focused.”

Blake’s double-double was his first of the season.

Joe Leonard registered a season-high in points with six to go along with four rebounds, while Owen Riley dished out seven assists off the bench.

The Purple Tigers had assists on 20 of their 24 field goals, which Milligan said “is impressive and shows how well these group knows our offense and trusts one another on the court.”

The Purple Tigers’ next game is Wednesday at Chittenango before they play their home finale at 7 p.m. Thursday against Skaneateles and Homer Saturday to end the regular season.