PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Sophomore James Morales (Mount Kisco/Fox Lane) hit an off-balance 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining to lift Cortland past Oswego, 77-74, in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Men’s Basketball Championship Game.
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The Red Dragons (20-7) won their seventh league title, and first since 2013, and earned the league’s NCAA Division III tournament automatic berth. NCAA pairings will be announced on a live selection show Monday at 12:30 p.m. on NCAA.com. Cortland reached the 20-win mark for the eighth time in school history, all since the 1998-99 season.
Sophomore Carrel Joseph (Port-au-Prince, Haiti/Deer Park (NY)) earned tournament MVP honors after scoring a career-high 24 points and grabbing six rebounds. He made 9-of-11 shots overall and 6-of-8 from 3-point range. He connected on three crucial 3-pointers in the final three and a half minutes to help the Red Dragons erase a late seven-point deficit.
Seniors Blair Estarfaa (Buffalo/Maryvale) and JP Reagan (Cortland) each scored 12 points and both joined Joseph on the all-tournament team. Reagan also shared the team lead with six rebounds, while Estarfaa finished with five rebounds and four assists and hit four 3-pointers.
Senior T.J. Hefele (Greenlawn/Friends Academy) ended the game with 14 points, five rebounds and a team-high seven assists. He was 4-of-8 from 3-point range. Morales scored six points, including his game-winning trey
Cortland set a school single-game record with 18 made 3-pointers, breaking the previous mark of 17 set versus SUNYIT in the 2011-12 season. The Red Dragons finished 18-of-35 from the arc (51 percent) and 47 percent overall from the floor, and Cortland turned the ball over only five times.
Oswego (20-8), last year’s SUNYAC champ, was led by Brian Sortino’s 27 points and eight assists. He was 9-of-22 from the floor, 3-of-12 from 3-point range. Kyle Covley added 19 points on 5-of-9 long-distance shooting and Keith Tyson totaled 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Sortino and Covley were chosen to the all-tournament team along with Cortland’s selections and Plattsburgh’s Kyle Richardson.
Cortland trailed 41-30 at halftime and by 12 early in the second half. The Red Dragons went on an 18-5 run over a six-minute span, led by two Estarfaa threes and five points from Reagan, and took a 52-51 lead with 12:23 remaining.
The game remained tight for the next five minutes before Oswego mounted a 9-0 run to turn a two-point deficit into a 67-60 lead with 4:33 left. Joseph answered with a layup and a trey to cut the margin to two with 3:22 left, and his 3-pointer at the 2:35 mark put Cortland up 68-67.
Sortino’s two free throws gave Oswego the lead back, and his layup with 1:51 left extended the margin to three. Joseph’s sixth 3-pointer of the game tied the score with 1:28 left, and Hefele buried a triple with 32 seconds remaining to put Cortland on top. Oswego, however, quickly raced downcourt and Covley hit a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to knot the game at 74-74.
Following an Oswego timeout, Cortland held for a final shot. Estarfaa tried to drive into the left side of the lane with time winding down, got caught in the air and lobbed a pass to the right wing. Morales backtracked to the ball and, with a defender in his face, shot a fall-back 3-pointer that found nothing but net with 0.4 seconds left. Oswego threw a long inbounds pass to Sortino, who caught the ball in front of his bench and launched a 3-point that came up short at the buzzer.
Oswego finished the game shooting 43 percent from the field and 36 percent (12-of-33) from the 3-point arc. The Lakers committed six turnovers as the teams combined for only 11 giveaways in the contest.
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