Feb 26, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Though it didn’t prove to be easy — especially in the latter part of the effort — the Cazenovia girls basketball team finds itself with a chance to snag its first-ever Section III Class B-2 championship and, perhaps, much more down the road.
Playoff wins over Hannibal and Clinton have put the top-seed Lakers (19-2) into the B-2 final, to be played Wednesday night against OHSL Liberty division rival Bishop Ludden at Jamesville-DeWitt. The winner advances to meet South Jefferson or Solvay for the overall Class B crown Saturday night at Onondaga Community College.
At the start of the playoffs, the Lakers had one more show to put on for the home folks at Buckley Gym — which it provided last Tuesday night when it flattened no. 8 seed Hannibal by a score of 72-34.
Working in much the same way it did when it beat the Warriors twice in league play, Cazenovia had a slightly sluggish start, leading by just three, 14-11, after one period.
Then the Lakers found a comfortable groove — and ran all over Hannibal. Forcing turnovers on one end and converting with ease on the other, Cazenovia put together a 23-4 blitz before halftime, ultimately outscoring the Warriors 41-13 in the game’s middle stages.
With Hannibal focused on keeping Kiley Evans in check, Molly Dougherty and Carrie Stevens had big outings. Dougherty led with 21 points, 12 of them in the third period to help the Lakers pull further away, while Stevens picked up a season-best 15 points to go with 11 rebounds.
Evans still had 12 points, with Rachel Hardke (nine points) close behind and Ellen Burr coming off the bench to earn eight points and add another offensive threat. Laurel Jicha and Shannon Baker led Hannibal with nine points apiece.
In Saturday’s B-2 semifinal at Chittenango, the Lakers had to take out the defending champions from Clinton, who had beaten Canastota in its quarterfinal contest.
This proved to be a tall task, requiring a great second half of defense for the Lakers to upend the Warriors 40-31 and move forward.
Methodical and utilizing a punishing, physical style of play, Clinton, the no. 5 seed, dictated the early pace and forced Cazenovia into a crawl, exactly the kind of game it didn’t want.
This led the Lakers to a 23-19 halftime deficit, its first crisis in the post-season and a chance to see whether Cazenovia had the mental fortitude to grind through this test.
As it turned out, the Lakers had plenty of fortitude, turning up its defensive pressure to an even greater degree and keeping Clinton from doing much the rest of the way. All the Warriors could manage was just four points in each of the last two periods.
This gave Cazenovia all sorts of time to get out in front and stay there. Dougherty and Evans carried a majority of the offensive load, as Dougherty earned a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Evans added 14 points. Hardke, Stevens and Kassie Kleine all were superb on the defensive end, stifling whatever hopes Clinton had of coming back in the late stages.
On Saturday, as Cazenovia was knocking off Clinton, Ludden was proving that, maybe, it paid to have a lot of time off.
Having waited more than a week to play last Saturday’s Section III Class B-2 semifinal against Sherburne-Earlville at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill High School, the Gaelic Knights flew into action and never halted until it had put the Marauders away in a 74-46 romp.
Starting out the B-2 tournament as a no. 6 seed, the Gaelic Knights shut down no. 3 seed Adirondack 46-25 in the quarterfinal round Feb. 15 at Boonville, then had to endure an eight-day hiatus before going to VVS.
Such a long break can do one of two things. It can either cause a team to get rusty and lose its rhythm, or it can give them a chance to rest, refresh, go through intense practices to stay sharp, and come back ready to pounce.
In Ludden’s case, the second option took hold, quickly, against Sherburne-Earlville, the B-2 tournament’s no. 2 seed. Simply put, the Marauders could not keep up with the intense, all-out pace the re-energized Gaelic Knights brought to the court.
First, the Ludden defense applied the heat, holding S-E to just six points in the first quarter. Then the offense got into rhythm, improving production in each quarter as it built a 37-21 halftime edge, then outscore the Marauders 24-9 in the third period to really put it away.
As usual, freshman Ashley Cianfriglia and senior Molly Byrne stood at the forefront, as Cianfriglia earned 19 points and Byrne added 18 points before going to the bench in the fourth quarter.
Each of the starters helped, too, as Bella Knapp earned 10 points, Bridget Musto got eight points and Michelle Roesch stepped up for seven points. In defeat, S-E got 13 points from Megan Record and 12 points from Courtney Kurtz.
Ludden knows a much bigger challenge awaits with Cazenovia, a team it lost to twice in the regular season, including a Jan. 14 overtime decision.