Cortland Defeats Alfred, 76-69, to Win ECAC Upstate N.Y. Title; Jeremy Smith Named Most Outstanding Player
CORTLAND, N.Y. – Junior guard Jeremy Smith (Bronx/Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy) scored 19 points and was named the championship Most Outstanding Player as Cortland defeated visiting Alfred University, 76-69, in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Div. III Upstate New York Championship Game.
The Red Dragons won their first ECAC title and finish the season with a 22-7 record. The 22 wins are the fourth-highest total in school history, and Cortland has reached the 20-win mark six times since the 1998-99 season. The Red Dragons were making their 10th ECAC postseason appearance and their third championship game showing.
Alfred finishes the year with a 15-11 record. The Saxons were making their fifth ECAC postseason appearance and are 0-2 in title games.
Junior Jesse Winter (Rockville Centre/South Side) and junior Harrison Hefele (Greenlawn/Friends Academy) each finished with 16 points and junior Brian Manning (Elmira/Southside) scored 12 points for Cortland.
Smith and Winter each hit 5-of-11 shots from the field. Smith was 4-of-8 from three-point range and 5-of-6 from the foul line and added three steals and two assists. Winter made 4-of-7 three-pointers, handed out five assists and grabbed four rebounds. Hefele totaled six rebounds and five assists and Manning led the team with eight rebounds and shared the team lead with Winter and Hefele with five assists.
Senior Josh Parker (Buffalo/Sweet Home) paced Alfred with 19 points and six assists. He hit 4-of-9 three-pointers. Sophomore Mike Branche (Schenectady/Colonie) scored 13 points and senior Derek Lewis (Horseheads) finished with eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Cortland led 11-2 to start the game, but Alfred came back and took a 21-20 lead on two Tim Pacheco (Mt. Pocono, PA/Pocono Mountain East) free throws with 5:19 remaining. Cortland regained the lead on a Hefele jumper and the Red Dragons eventually led 33-30 at halftime.
The Red Dragons took a 51-43 lead on a Kevin McMahon (Hoosick Falls) layup with 12:12 remaining. The Saxons scored the next eight points on three-pointers by Tim Costello (Windsor) and Branche, sandwiched around a Sean Curran (Honesdale, PA) jumper, and tied the game at 51-51 with 9:41 left.
Cortland re-took the lead on a Nick Sutedjo (Webster/Webster Schroeder) three-pointer at the 9:15 mark, but Branche and Curran nailed back-to-back three-pointers to put Alfred up 57-54 with 7:08 left.
Alfred held its final lead at 63-62 on a Pat Hollenbeck (Ontario/Wayne) free throw with 4:14 left. Smith made a three-pointer with four minutes left to give Cortland the lead for good, then hit another trey on the Red Dragons' next possession to put his squad up 68-64 with 3:21 left. Alfred missed a three-pointer on its next trip down the floor, and with the shot clock running down, Winter buried a long three-pointer with 2:24 left and Cortland led 71-64.
The closest Alfred got after that was six at 72-66 on a Branche put-back with 52 seconds left. Hefele made two free throws with 51 seconds on the clock and Smith helped seal the win with two foul shots with 21 seconds left.
Cortland shot 44 percent from the field and 31 percent (9-of-29) from three-point range. The Red Dragons hit only 1-of-12 three-pointers in the first half, but connected on 8-of-17 treys in the second half. Cortland made at least eight three-pointers in each of its last 10 games this season and at least four three-pointers in all 29 games.
Alfred shot 46 percent from the floor and 44 percent (10-of-23) from three-point range. Like Cortland, the Saxons struggled from behind the arc in the first half (3-of-10), but made 7-of-13 long-distance shots in the second half.