A combination of smart scheduling and turns in the winter weather kept the Cazenovia boys basketball team from a full January slate.
In fact, entering last week's action, the Lakers had taken the court just one time since handing head coach Todd Widrick his 300th victory against Hannibal on Jan. 9, and that was a routine win over Jordan-Elbridge eight days later.
Fully energized after the rest, and prepared after a good deal of practice time, the Lakers took its 13-1 mark and no. 8 state Class B ranking into the homestretch of the regular season to see how much better it could get.
Making up the snowed-out Jan. 19 game at Solvay last Wednesday night, the Lakers showed some early rust and allowed a 10-point second-half lead to slip away, yet still took charge down the stretch to beat the Bearcats 63-51.
Though sluggish at first, Cazenovia slowly worked itself out of that early drought and matched baskets with Solvay throughout the first half as the teams went to the break in a 26-26 deadlock.
Tom Eschen took over in the third quarter. Shut down in the early going, the senior point guard scored, made steals, rebounded and gave every one of his teammates more energy in the process as the Lakers raced to a 41-31 lead. Of Eschen's 15 points, nine came in that period, 13 in the second half.
Solvay roared back, though, and used hot outside shooting to sneak into a 43-42 lead early in the fourth quarter. It went back and forth again, with Cazenovia clinging to a 50-48 edge with less than four minutes left.
Showing its poise, the Lakers clamped down on defense, dominated on the boards, and rattled off an 11-0 run to settle matters.
Peter Lokai reached a double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Chris Nourse matched Eschen with 15 points and Aaron Burbidge added nine points. Solvay's Joe Barnello led his side with 17 points.
As a whole, the Laker offense displayed far more aggression and finishing ability than it had showed early this season, when defense was close to the whole story. Cazenovia wants to continue this Friday when it meets Skaneateles at Buckley Gym.