Feb 27, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
When it plunged into the Section III Class B-2 playoffs, the Skaneateles girls basketball team had the express purpose of using its highly-regarded defense to register wins and go after a championship banner.
And that defense was on full display last Friday night at Baker High School in Baldwinsville, where the Lakers ousted no. 3 seed Canastota, 50-33, in the B-2 semifinals.
With that victory, Skaneateles advanced to Tuesday night’s B-2 final at Cicero-North Syracuse against top seed Clinton. A win there would give the Lakers its first sectional title since 1982.
Head coach Bob Braunitzer said the core of his team has struggled for a long time to reach this summit in the program’s history.
“This has been a three-year quest, and each year we got better,” he said. “We have worked so hard to get to this point.”
That hard work included a whole lot of advanced scouting. Braunitzer said his staff got to see Canastota play several times this season, and concluded that, to neutralize the Raiders’ size advantage, it would need to keep the ball from getting inside to forwards Liz McGinley and Victoria Johnson.
This required a defensive mix. Mostly, the Lakers played in a 2-3 zone, but at times it would shift to full-court pressure, with both schemes designed to force Canastota to work outside more than it wanted.
Through a sloppy first half, that defense was effective, but Skaneateles still carried a modest 18-14 lead to the break. Braunitzer said that, in the locker room, he told his players to find another gear.
“We had to turn it up a little bit,” said Braunitzer.
Once Caryn Crary and Brittany LaVaute hit on back-to-back 3-pointers to start the third quarter, turning it up wasn’t a problem.
In fact, the Lakers didn’t let up until it had put together a 14-0 run to start the second half, shutting out the Raiders for nearly five minutes during this spurt. Canastota never recovered.
For the night, Crary was quite hot, earning 17 points, most of it from four successful 3-point attempts. LaVaute added 14 points, while Alexis Jones and Staci Dudden put up six points apiece.
And that Laker defense did prove effective in taking the Canastota forwards out of the action, holding Johnson without a point and limiting McGinley to six points. Kaitlyn Peryer (12 points) and Liz Dennis (11 points) were the Raiders’ top scorers.
Ironically enough, it was the no. 2 seed Lakers’ offense that proved to be the star of last Monday night’s 67-51 victory over no. 7 seed Sauquoit Valley in the quarterfinal round.
Making everything at the start in its friendly home surroundings, Skaneateles sprinted out to a 23-9 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Though it cooled off a bit, the Lakers still led 32-20 at halftime, and stayed in front throughout the second half by matching whatever Sauquoit could produce and taking care of the ball with a season-low 10 turnovers.
Crary set a new career mark with 22 points, hitting five 3-pointers to build up her total. Sarah Trust also reached a career high, coming off the bench to record a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Much of the rest of that offense came from frequent trips to the line, where the Lakers made 28 of 46 free throws. LaVaute made 10 of them, on her way to 14 points, while Jones and Lauren Adams each had six points and made four combined foul shots.
All this helped to overcome a balanced Sauquoit attack, where Abby Shepard and Kaitlyn Leonard each had 12 points, Renee Whalen had 11 points and Kayla Calogero added nine points.
Canastota would fall next, setting up the battle with Clinton, who was 18-4 and had just fought off Bishop Ludden 37-34 in the other B-2 semifinal.
Whoever wins will have a giant task ahead in Saturday’s overall Class B final at Onondaga Community College, for defending state champion South Jefferson or long-time power Westhill will be waiting.