As it cast aside opponents with frightening ease this winter, the Christian Brothers Academy girls basketball team knew a moment would arrive when its character and heart would be put to the test.
That moment arrived last Saturday night, in the Section III Class A final at Onondaga Community College.
Despite its 20-1 record and no. 1 state ranking, CBA found itself hanging on against a furious fourth-quarter rally from its biggest rival, Jamesville-DeWitt.
By weathering that storm in the way that it did, the Brothers, by a score of 56-52, beat the Red Rams and earned its second consecutive sectional crown.
"It's a great accomplishment," said CBA head coach John Niland. "Not many teams can repeat."
To earn back-to-back titles, the Brothers had to beat J-D for the third time this season. Each of the first two outings, on Dec. 20 and Jan. 31, were one-sided CBA romps featuring the usual blend of pressure defense and hot 3-point shooting.
Right away, though, J-D gave the indications that this third -- and most important -- meeting would be a different animal.
The Rams raced out to a 12-6 lead, aggressively driving to the basket and getting five points apiece from guards Brittany Cohen and Alyssa Gratien.
Coming off the bench, freshman Leanne Ockenden gave CBA the spark it needed, hitting a pair of 3-pointers to put her team up 16-14 by the end of the first quarter.
Steadily, the Brothers moved further ahead, getting as much offensive balance as it has enjoyed all season. Sarah Paulus (13 points), Amanda Billy (12 points) and Ockenden (11 points) each reached double figures, but none of them needed to dominate.
Meanwhile, J-D cooled off, not helped by the fact that guard Amanda Koenck got into foul trouble, held without a field goal. Only Danielle Weekes' work in the paint (she had eight points in the third quarter) kept the Rams in sight.