Mar 05, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Two seasons of pitched battles between the Jamesville-DeWitt boys basketball team and Cortland had conditioned fans on both sides to expect another of them Sunday night when the two met for the Section III Class A championship in the Carrier Dome.
Instead, it turned into yet another coronation for the Red Rams, who now own five consecutive sectional titles as Tyler Cavanaugh’s first-half shooting barrage keyed a 66-54 victory over the Purple Tigers.
All of this is part of J-D’s hot pursuit of history – namely, an unprecedented fifth straight state crown, and it’s something that isn’t far from the minds of Cavanaugh and his teammates.
“We try not to think about it,” he said. “But obviously it would be a cool thing to accomplish.”
Head coach Bob McKenney said that the presence of experienced, proven winners at the heart of his lineup, in the forms of Cavanaugh and fellow star Dajuan Coleman, make the job easier.
“They understand what they have to do at this time of year,” said McKenney.
On this night, the task involved toppling Cortland for a third time this winter, this on the heels of a pair of eight-point regular-season wins and, of course, J-D beating the Purple Tigers in last year’s sectional final at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Coleman said that, in each of those regular-season games, “we didn’t play our best game. This time, we were focused on doing that.”
Right away, Cortland’s defensive strategy was apparent, as it double and triple-teamed Coleman, who was donning brand-new orange sneakers on the same Syracuse University court where will be playing for the Orange next winter.
The Purple Tigers’ tactics backfired when Cavanaugh hit two 3-pointers in a span of less than 20 seconds to open the scoring. So began a seesaw first quarter that saw J-D fall behind 15-14 despite a third Cavanaugh 3-pointer, only to regain the lead for good on a Coleman tip-in and Cavanaugh’s fourth trey of the night.
As if that wasn’t enough, Cavanaugh made it five 3-pointers early in the second period, and he added a traditional three-point play as part of a decisive 15-2 run that also included key baskets from sophomores Jafar Kinsey and Rasheed Baker.
At the break, J-D held a 42-22 edge, with Cavanaugh having just two less points (20) than the entire Purple Tiger squad.
“That’s what I needed to do to get the team going,” said Cavanaugh.
Coleman, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, agreed. “He (Tyler) worked hard every day, and he was ready for this game,” said Coleman.
Cortland, who was led by Qwuhail Barlow (21 points) and Jon Prior (10 points), spent the second half in a futile pursuit of the Rams, never getting within single digits, but the closing stretch still provided drama that no J-D fan wanted.
With 4:13 left, Cavanaugh drove to the basket and scored, giving him 25 points for the night. As he did, though, he fell hard to the court, injuring his left hip. Cavanaugh walked off the court under his own power, but did not return.
Later, Cavanaugh said he still felt soreness in the hip, and on Monday he was to go get an X-ray to see the extent of the injury.
The Rams’ dreams of that historic fifth consecutive state title might hinge on whether Cavanaugh returns to action, as J-D meets Malone (Section X) Wednesday night at SUNY-Potsdam in the opening game of the state tournament.
To return to another state final four in Glens Falls on March 16-17, the Rams will need to beat Malone and prevail in a regional final Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy against Section II champion Scotia-Glenville.