Going into the Section III Class AA playoffs, the primary concern for the West Genesee girls basketball team was to see whether Alyssa Sutherland would be at full capacity.
Sutherland, the Wildcats' leading scorer and one of its top rebounding threats, injured her shoulder Feb. 4 in a win over Corcoran. She missed the rest of the regular season, not wanting to risk any further damage.
But Sutherland was back for Friday night's opening round of the AA tournament, and her presence helped the no. 6 seed Wildcats eliminate no. 11 seed Rome Free Academy by a score of 53-37.
Determined to clamp down on defense from the opening tip, WG doubled up the Black Knights in the first quarter, 14-7. Though it cooled down a bit before halftime, the Wildcats still went to the break ahead, 24-16.
RFA hung in there for a long while, which required the Wildcats to make a series of free throws down the stretch, just to be sure.
Sutherland put up 10 points in her return, plus hurt RFA with her inside defensive presence. Amanda Cizenski led with 14 points, while Liz Wierbinski matched Sutherland with 10 points. Karen Bianchi (eight points) and Nicole Monroe (six points) were close behind.
Heather Fish, with 11 points, was RFA's top scorer, but the Wildcats did a good job containing Lyndsey Brognano, holding her to eight points.
WG now takes a 16-5 record into Tuesday night's Class AA quarterfinal against no. 3 seed Corcoran, a team it lost to back on Dec. 14. The winner gets CBA or Fayetteville-Manlius in the semifinals later this week.