---- — CORTLAND — It wasn’t the best of days for the Plattsburgh State men’s basketball team on Saturday.
The Cardinals dropped a 75-61 decision at top-seeded Cortland in the SUNY Athletic Conference Tournament championship game.
With the victory, the Red Dragons (23-4) earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament, while the Cardinals (19-8) will await word on Monday of a possible at-large bid.
Plattsburgh State coach Tom Curle said, however, that is going to be a long shot now after what happened over the weekend.
“A couple of regional teams we needed to win in their conference tournaments ended up losing,” he said. “That hurts us, but we still have a chance.
“But no matter what happens, I told the players that I’m as proud of them today as much as I was yesterday. I know this will leave a bad taste in their mouths, but they will work hard, especially in the weight room, to get better.”
Jeremy Smith poured in a game-high 24 points for the Red Dragons, who avenged an 80-77 setback to the Cardinals late in the regular season at Memorial Hall, while Harrison Hefele added 17, Kevin McMahon 12 and Jesse Winter, 10.
Cortland was 43.4 percent from the field, 42.4 percent (14-of-33) from 3-point range and 83.3 percent from the line.
“We ran into a buzz saw today — they shot the ball so well,” Curle said. “We played really hard and it’s more a credit to them than anything else. They lost in the conference championship game last year and had more of a sense of urgency this year.
“They outplayed us in most facets of the game.”
Jordan Moody paced the Cardinals with 16 points, while Reggie Williams and Shamoy McIntosh added 12 apiece. Williams was 4-for-4 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line. Kalik Parker added a team-high seven rebounds, and Chris Manning had team highs of seven assists and four steals.
Plattsburgh went 44.4 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from beyond the arc and 57.7 percent from the charity stripe.
Plattsburgh’s only lead of the first half was at 6-5 and the Cardinals trailed, 12-11, with 13:23 left in the half.
Cortland, however, controlled the rest of the opening stanza and led by as many as 15 before settling for a 41-27 advantage.
“We tried to respond in the first half,” Curle said.
The Red Dragons went up by as much as 18 points, 54-36, after intermission. The Cardinals did chip away some and got as close as eight points, 61-53, with 8:51 left in the contest.
That would be Plattsburgh’s final run, however, as Cortland held a 14-8 scoring edge the rest of the way.
“We came out in the second half and played hard,” Curle said. “But we let it get away from us in the first half and you can’t do that against a team as good as they are. Every time we made a run, they had an answer — and it usually was a 3-pointer.”
“This game will help us be more prepared next year.”
Williams and Moody represented the Cardinals on the all-tournament team.
“That was nice to see because those are two players who usually don’t get a lot of recognition,” Curle said.
Cortland 75, Plattsburgh 61
Manning 0-0-0, McIntosh 4-2-12, Williams 4-4-12, Moody 4-6-16, Hodgson 1-0-3, Mitchell 1-1-3, Ottey 0-0-0, Outlaw 0-0-0, Tibbs 1-0-2, Fields 3-2-8, Parker 0-0-0, O’Shea 0-0-0, Correa 2-0-5, Siergiej 0-0-0. Totals: 20-15-61.
Smith 8-4-24, Winter 2-4-10, Hefele 5-3-17, Sternkopf 0-0-0, McMahon 4-4-12, Herron 1-0-3, Manning 3-0-9, Spendjian 0-0-0. Totals: 23-15-75.
Halftime: Cortland, 41-27.
3-point goals: Plattsburgh (6): McIntosh 2; Moody 2; Hodgson; Correa. Cortland (14): Smith 4; Hefele 4; Manning 3; Winter 2; Herron.