The Cortland girls basketball team never trailed against the visiting Chenango Valley Warriors and hit a number of key shots down the stretch to seal a 48-41 victory Monday evening.
With 3:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Purple Tigers led 39-34. Mallory Turner then made back-to-back layups sandwiched around an and-one from Chenango Valley to make it a 43-37 game.
The score remained there until 36.8 seconds remained. The Warriors got a basket from Madelyn Hayes to cut the lead to four, but because they were still losing, they were forced to foul.
Val Gambitta was fouled with 21.1 seconds left and hit both free throws to give Cortland a 45-39 lead. The Warriors responded with two foul shots of their own.
On the ensuing Cortland possession, the inbound pass was tipped by a defender, but recovered by Kirsten Merritt, who dribbled around defenders and took eight seconds off the clock before being fouled and sent to the line.
Merritt hit one of two free throws to make it 46-41 with 6.2 seconds left. The Warriors, who were in desperate need of a score, called a timeout with 5.2 seconds remaining without having any left to use. This resulted in a technical foul, which gave the Purple Tigers two more foul shots and the ball.
Merritt stepped to the line and hit both free throws to seal the game.
The difference a game can make was on full display during the win, as the Purple Tigers capitalized on their free looks against the Warriors, something Cortland head coach Janice Meyer knows was a key to their victory.
“Game-changer,” Meyer said. “We definitely shot the ball better free throw-wise today. It was the reason we lost last game. It was nice to put that together today and seal the deal because anything can happen with 20 seconds left.”
The Purple Tigers shot the ball well all night, breaking down the Warriors’ 2-3 zone and finding a number of open looks resulting in points.
“We had nice good releases and we reversed the ball well, which helped the shots be open,” Meyer said. “Attacking those gaps gave us more confidence as time went on and opened up those shooters.”
Merritt led the way for the Purple Tigers with 15 points, including four 3-pointers. Turner finished with 10 points, Kendall Mack added nine, Gambitta had seven points and Margaret Starr and Danielle Benjamin pitched in two points apiece.
Next up for the Purple Tigers is road game at 6:45 p.m. Friday at Oswego.
TULLY 32, PORT BYRON 29
Tully got half of their scoring output from Grace McKenna, who finished with 16 points in the Black Knights’ second consecutive victory.
The Black Knights led 12-10 at halftime and were tied at 21 after three. McKenna gave Tully six of their 11 fourth-quarter points to ensure the tight league win.
McKenna scored 12 of her 16 in the second half. Hailey Olender added in eight points, Morgan Downes had six and McKenzie Smith notched two to round out Tully’s scoring.
Kooper Vosburg’s 17-point, 12-rebound double-double helped Cincinnatus get out to a perfect 3-0 start to the season. Vosburg lit it up in the first half, scoring 11 points before the break.
Cason Stafford and Tyler Liddle also stuffed the stat sheet for the Lions. Cason Stafford had 12 points, six rebounds, nine assists and six steals. Liddle added 11 points, six boards and seven steals. Canden Stafford pitched in 16 points and Scott Schuyler had 11 points and five assists. Johnny Schuyler (5) and Jordan Larrabee (2) also scored for Cincinnatus.
The Lions put their foot on the gas in the first half, taking a 40-15 lead into halftime. They still controlled play in the second half, but won it 35-22.
Homer at Hannibal, 6:30 p.m.
McGraw at Madison, 7 p.m.
Brookfield at Cincinnatus, 6 p.m.
Groton at Union Springs, 7:30 p.m.
Moravia at Trumansburg, 7:30 p.m.
Marathon at Southern Cayuga, 7:30 p.m.
Union Springs at Groton, 7:15 p.m.
Trumansburg at Moravia, 7:30 p.m.
Cincinnatus at Sherburne-Earlville, 7 p.m.
Cortland/Homer at Clinton, 7:30 p.m.
Homer at Bishop Grimes, 3:30 p.m.
Groton at Marathon, 4 p.m.
BOYS SCIMMING & DIVING
Dryden at Lansing, 4:30 p.m.