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.