For the Jamesville-DeWitt boys basketball team, it was a stark reminder of how things have changed in the local Class A ranks and that it no longer dictates the terms.
But for Cortland, Thursday night’s 70-56 victory over the Red Rams in front of a loud and raucous home crowd at the CHS gymnasium brought a sort of deliverance.
Each of the last two seasons, the Purple Tigers had strong, championship-level teams, only to see those title dreams quashed by J-D in back-to-back Section III Class A finals.
Yet even though the entire starting five from 2011-12 graduated, and long-time head coach Mick Lowie stepped down, Cortland quickly moved on with a new coach (Jeremy Milligan) and a new lineup bent on atoning for those missed opportunities, starting the season 10-0 before a close defeat to Bishop Ludden on Jan. 11.
When the Purple Tigers won at J-D 57-53 on Dec. 14, the Rams still did not have Jeff Edwards in the lineup. Since he came back, J-D had won four in a row, and it ventured to Cortland with a full lineup and a belief that it could turn things around.
At first, the pace was just what the Rams wanted – fast, wild and free-wheeling, as a high-scoring first quarter saw J-D inch into a 25-23 lead.
By the second period, though, the Purple Tigers had slowed things down, locking into its zone and staying patient on the offensive end, too, while still recording baskets. As a result, J-D's lead, which got as big as 31-27 midway through the quarter, quickly vanished.
At the break, the Rams trailed 40-35, but it really fell apart in the third quarter. Cold shooting, and Cortland’s pressure, limited J-D to just five points in that frame, allowing the Purple Tigers to build a 51-40 edge that the visitors could not overcome in the late going.