Though uneven at times in the second half of the regular season, the West Genesee girls basketball team picked a great time to pull itself together -- just a week before the start of the Section III Class AA playoffs.
In perhaps its finest effort of the entire season, the Wildcats traveled to Cortland last Monday night and gave the 17-0 Purple Tigers its first defeat of the season in a 61-59 classic.
Cortland had won their first meeting Dec. 28, in Camillus, and used that as a springboard to rise to the no. 5 spot in the state Class A rankings.
And in this rematch, the Purple Tigers again went out in front, 16-11, in the first quarter. The difference, though, was that WG would not fall away.
Over the course of the next two periods, the pace was quick and exciting, with the Wildcats keeping right up. By the time they got to the fourth quarter, WG was in front, 45-44.
Neither side could gain any separation until the final minute of regulation. Alyssa Sutherland occupied the Purple Tigers in the paint, piling up 23 points and 13 rebounds and forcing Cortland to abandon perimeter pressure just long enough to make a difference.
Sure enough, Karen Bianchi, given an open 3-pointer with a minute left, made it to put the Wildcats back in front, and she also hit a key free throw with 20 seconds to play.
Bianchi finished with nine points, the same as teammate Amanda Cizenski, as Liz Wierbinski chimed in with 10 points and Nicole Monroe earned six points.
Cortland had a nice balance, too. Shannon Finucane led their side with 21 points as she and Amanda Lawlor (13 points) both hit on three 3-pointers. Courtney Tennant had 12 points, with Deanna Bishop adding nine points.
WG (13-5) will be favored in each of their remaining games against Auburn and Henninger as Cortland closes with Jamesville-DeWitt and Chittenango.