To fully state its case as an OHSL Liberty division contender, the Solvay girls basketball team needed to survive back-to-back games against highly-improved rivals --which it did, going to 5-0 in the process.
This gauntlet began last Tuesday night, against Skaneateles. Great stretches of defense helped the Bearcats fight past the Lakers 43-39.
Following years of dormancy, Skaneateles was off to a hot 3-0 start, including the title at the Phoenix Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Dec. 2.
Unimpressed by that, Solvay held the Lakers to just three points in the first quarter, allowing Solvay to work through its own struggles. Eventually, it built a 31-23 lead through three periods, enough to withstand a late Skaneateles push.
Kelly Kaltenbach stepped up to score 13 points as forward Carrie Smith was held to 10 points. For the Lakers, Emily Ross and Staci Dudden each had 10 points.
The win came with a price, as veteran Chelsey Chavez-Egan left the game with a sprained foot and was expected to miss at least a week of action.
Just 24 hours later, the Bearcats, with Chavez-Egan on the bench (Erica Griffo took over her starting role), found itself at Marcellus, another team vastly better than in 2005-06, when it managed just two victories all winter.
Relying mostly on its defense, Solvay built a double-digit lead, then again had to fight off a late charge to pull out a 37-33 win over the Mustangs.
Though far from sharp, Solvay built a 22-12 halftime lead as it got the Mustangs' leading scorer, Sarah Holden, in early foul trouble and ultimately held her to eight points on the night.
By the fourth quarter, the margin was 32-20, but the effect of two tough games in as many days began to show as Marcellus made a furious comeback.
With eight seconds left, Katie Falge hit a 3-pointer to slice the Bearcats' lead to 35-33. However, Marcellus intentionally fouled Smith on the ensuing inbounds pass -- and with her injured, Meghan Corning stepped up to hit the pair of free throws that sealed victory.
Smith had 11 points to lead both sides in scoring. Corning finished with seven points, with Kaltenbach adding six points.
Solvay now rested for a bit before putting its 5-0 mark on the line Tuesday night against Cazenovia. The Bearcats visit Hannibal on Thursday night.