Cortland Men's Basketball loses heartbreaker in NCAA tournament

AMHERST, MASS. – Johnny McCarthy made two free throws with five seconds left to cap a late Amherst College comeback and the nationally 15th-ranked hosts edged Cortland, 69-68, in the second round of the NCAA Div. III men's basketball tournament.

Amherst (24-5) advances to face Babson in the "sweet 16" round next Friday at a site to be determined. Cortland, making its sixth NCAA tournament appearance, wraps up the season with a 21-8 record. Each of Cortland's last three NCAA showings have ended with close second-round losses to teams from the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

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Carrel Joseph (Port-au-Prince, Haiti/Deer Park (NY)) led Cortland with 20 points. He hit six 3-point shots in 12 attempts and was 7-of-15 from the floor overall. Blair Estarfaa (Buffalo/Maryvale) also shot 7-of-15 from the field and ended with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists. JP Reagan (Cortland) added 10 points and team highs of six rebounds and three assists, with Shayne Martinez (West Haverstraw/North Rockland) also grabbing six boards.

Connor Green led Amherst with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. He was 8-of-16 from the field and 3-of-9 from 3-point range. McCarthy finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, and Jayde Dawson and Michael Riopel each scored nine points. Dawson dished out three assists.

Carrel Joseph led Cortland with 20 points, including 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point range (Photo: Darl Zehr Photography)

Carrel Joseph led Cortland with 20 points, including 6-of-12 shooting from 3-point range (Photo: Darl Zehr Photography)

Both teams finished with double-figure 3-pointers made. Cortland shot 12-of-35 from the arc (34 percent) and 43 percent overall. Amherst went 10-of-33 (30 percent) from long distance and 43 percent overall.

Cortland trailed 18-7 early and by 10 with 3:47 left in the first half, but closed to within 34-30 at halftime. Amherst held a 48-40 lead after a Green 3-pointer with 14:12 remaining, but Cortland went on an 11-2 run over the next four minutes. Estarfaa's 3-pointer with 10:43 left gave the Red Dragons their first lead of the night at 51-50.

With Amherst up by two, Cortland used 3-pointers from Joseph and James Morales (Mount Kisco/Fox Lane) and a Reagan layup to take its largest lead at 64-58 with 5:53 remaining. Cortland still led by five points at 67-62 on a Joseph 3-pointer with 2:58 on the clock.

Riopel scored for Amherst with 2:06 left, with Cortland getting one point back on a Reagan free throw with 1:34 left. Green's tip-in at the 1:18 mark cut the Red Dragons' lead to two.

After a Cortland miss, Amherst had a chance to take the lead but missed a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left. Cortland secured the rebound, but the Red Dragons were whistled for a foul away from the ball to give possession back to Amherst. On the ensuing inbounds, Dawson bounced a pass off a Cortland defender's back, grabbed the ball and was fouled. He missed the first free throw, but hit the second to make the score 68-67.

Cortland ran down most of the shot clock on its next possession before missing a jumper. The rebound came out long and set up an Amherst 2-on-1 break. The hosts missed a shot, but McCarthy grabbed the offensive board and was fouled with five seconds left. He made both free throws to put Amherst up by one.

Amherst had three fouls to give without putting Cortland into the bonus. The team formerly known as the Lord Jeffs committed two of those fouls, and Cortland had an inbounds from in front of its own bench with less than two seconds left. Reagan bounced a pass off a defender and recovered the ball, but his contested 3-pointer was short as time expired.

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