Riding a five-game win streak to open its season, the Cazenovia boys basketball team was given a chance to go on top of the OHSL Liberty division -- and also prove that it was the best Laker team around.
On both questions, Cazenovia gave an emphatic and positive response, riding to 6-0 last Friday night by methodically shutting down Skaneateles and halting the western Lakers' four-game win streak with a 55-36 victory.
Events on Wednesday night turned this routine regular-season battle into something with bigger consequences. Skaneateles had broadcast its presence by stunning Westhill 50-44 while, at the same time, Cazenovia was at home, grinding out a 56-40 win over Solvay.
So the two Laker teams arrived at this early showdown unbeaten and full of confidence-- but by game's end, only one team left with that confidence intact.
Sprinting out of the gate, Skaneateles grabbed a 10-2 lead before the game was three minutes old, appearing to sail right through Cazenovia's vaunted defense.
Quickly, head coach Todd Widrick made a switch, unleashing full-court pressure to harass the western Lakers into all sorts of mistakes, then maintained that heat for he duration of the night.
It could not have worked better. From that early 10-2 stretch all the way to game's end, the eastern Lakers held Skaneateles to a grand total of eight field goals.
Meanwhile, Cazenovia surged into the lead, 21-18, by halftime as forward Peter Lokai had more than half his team's total -- 11, to be exact -- on his way to 16 points for the night.
Later, Aaron Burbidge put Skaneateles away with a trio of 3-pointers, breaking his team's early drought from the perimeter. He finished with 15 points, while Chris Nourse came off the bench to earn 10 points.
In a way, the Lakers' win over Solvay two nights earlier had some similarities to the Skaneateles game -- except that Cazenovia had the quick start, and would not let go of that advantage.