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.