Feb 04, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Molly Dougherty picked quite a time to have the best game of her varsity career — and in doing so, she helped inspire the Cazenovia girls basketball team to one of the most signifcant victories in the program’s history.
Dougherty, a junior, piled up 23 points and 15 rebounds, laying the foundation for the Lakers’ stunning 41-40 win over Westhill last Friday night at Buckley Gym.
“It’s definitely our biggest win,” said head coach Paul Harney. “Westhill is the measuring stick for us.”
To say that this was unexpected would be an understatement. The last time Cazenovia had played at home, on Jan. 23, it had absorbed a painful 38-37 defeat to Marcellus, a team struggling to reach the .500 mark.
Given that, the Lakers, even at 10-7, were given little chance of slowing up a Westhill team that was 17-2, ranked no. 5 in the state Class B poll, was riding an 11-game win streak, and had not dropped a league game to anyone since 2003.
But Cazenovia had played the Warriors close in a defeat on Dec. 22, and Harney told his players that it had to stop being content with that.
“There comes a point when you’ve got to stop accepting moral victories,” he said.
Knowing that Westhill liked to press and establish a running game, the Lakers stayed patient on offense, kept turnovers to a minimum, and watched Dougherty (who averages 14 rebounds a game) hustle to the boards for rebounds and aggressive baskets.
“Molly is under the radar, but she’s a good player who can drive and shoot,” said Harney. “She has a knack for knowing where the ball is coming off the rim, and she creates a lot of shots for herself.”
Important as Dougherty was, the Lakers’ defense, as a whole, shined even brighter.
Any team wanting to beat Westhill has to find a way to keep either imposing senior forward Lisa Olszewski, or hot-shooting sophomore guard Carly Cooper, from fully establishing themselves.
Somehow, Cazenovia pulled this off. Carrie Stevens worked well in the paint, and while Olszewski led the Warriors with 14 points, she had to fight hard for each for them.
Meanwhile, Kassie Kleine and Rachel Hardke roamed the perimeter, making sure Cassidy, along with fellow guards Kristen Diglio and Annie O’Connor, never got many open looks. Westhill finished with just three 3-pointers, far below what it expects on a given night. Cooper was held to 11 points.
Add that all up, and Cazenovia found itself ahead for most of the night, building its margin to 36-28 by the end of the third quarter and pulling ahead by as much as 10 in the final period.
Then, it had to hang on. The Lakers’ margin had dwindled to five, 41-36, when Warrior pressure led to back-to-back turnovers and baskets by Diglio to slice the lead to one as the clock ticked down.
With 11 seconds left, Dougherty missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity. Amid a scramble, Diglio got the rebound, but the defense forced her to burn time going up the court.
Westhill called a time-out with three seconds left to set up a possible winning shot. The ball went to Cooper — and so did the Laker defenders, tying Cooper up and never letting her shoot before time ran out.
To keep this full load of momentum, Cazenovia will host Solvay Wednesday night, then close the regular season Friday with a visit to Marcellus — and a chance to avenge that painful Jan. 23 defeat to the Mustangs.
“It (beating Westhill) definitely sets the table for the rest of the season,” said Harney.