Bearcats survive Skaneateles, stay unbeaten

On the day after Christmas, the Solvay girls basketball team boarded a plane and escaped Central New York wintertime to spend the rest of the week at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Florida, meeting a trio of top-flight opponents from across the country.

As it traveled, the Bearcats could revel in the satisfaction provided by the best start in the program's history, an 8-0 mark that was not easily attained.

Following a week where it held off Cazenovia and earned its first-ever win over Westhill, Solvay nearly saw it crumble in last Tuesday's game at Skaneateles, but it fought through a subpar performance to beat the Lakers 43-38 in overtime.

Coming off back-to-back defeats to Marcellus and Bishop Ludden, Skaneateles was desperate to do something good. So it employed full-court pressure, forced early Solvay turnovers and put the Bearcats in a 9-0 hole before the game was two minutes old.

From there, though, Solvay settled down. Even though the pace was slow and the offense muted, it used aggressive play to force fouls, and free throws, that helped the deficit sink to a single point, 21-20, by halftime.

Throughout the second half, baskets continued to be precious. Solvay went up 33-29 early in the fourth quarter, only to have Skaneateles fight back and go in front, 36-35, on Brittany LaVaute's lay-up with 2:21 left.

Solvay had many chances to win in regulation. Twice, Chelsey Chavez-Egan drew a foul and went to the line for one-and-one free-throw chances. Chavez-Egan made just one of them, a free throw with 9.4 seconds left that tied it, 36-36.

When the Lakers' Alexis Jones saw her possible winning shot from the right side go off the rim, the two sides limped to overtime, where the grind continued.

Tessa Pucello struck the decisive blow, as the freshman forward hit on a three-point play with 2:18 left in OT to break the tie. Liz Martinez hit a key basket with 48 seconds left, and Chavez-Egan's pair of free throws with 11.2 seconds to play sealed it.

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