Feb 28, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Already, the Solvay girls basketball team of 2007-08 had earned its place as the most successful in the program’s history, setting a school record for wins (16) and going to the Section III Class B-1 championship game for the first time.
And the Bearcats made a brave effort against five-time defending champion South Jefferson in Wednesday night’s B-1 final at Jamesville-DeWitt High School before taking a 44-34 loss to the Spartans.
Going in, Solvay knew that, with South Jefferson, the whole key to trying to stop a team that had not lost any sectional playoff game since 2002 was trying to solve the jigsaw puzzle that is the Spartans’ defense.
Utilizing a deep bench, South Jefferson constantly rotates players in and out, then brings man-to-man pressure that varies with the possession. Sometimes it’s full-court, other times half-court. Either way, it causes immense headaches for an opponent, even one with as much veteran talent as Solvay has.
What the Bearcats hoped for was that the Spartans would have its own offensive issues — which it did, at least in the first quarter.
Solvay kept South Jeferson off the board for nearly four minutes, yet could only manage a pair of baskets — one by Katrina Griffo, the other by Chelsey Chavez-Egan.
Still, the Bearcats led until the midway point of the second quarter, forcing the Spartans into 3-pointers well off target while utilizing a 2-3 zone on defense to keep South Jefferson’s top player, Linsey Niles, from getting free too often.
Just at the wrong time, though, Solvay fell victim to one of those patented scoring droughts South Jefferson causes. For nearly seven minutes, the Bearcats went without a point, allowing the Spartans to go on a 12-0 run (seven of those points from Cassie St. Hilaire) and take the lead for good.
Down 19-12 at the break, Solvay hung around in the third quarter, pulling within four, 25-21, by the end of the period as Chavez-Egan hit a pair of outside shots.
But led by Niles and St. Hilaire, who finished with 14 points apiece,South Jefferson would answer every possible charge down the stretch, advancing to Saturday night’s overall Class B final against Cazenovia.
Chavez-Egan would match Niles and St. Hilaire, leading the Bearcats with 14 points, as Griffo added seven points. South Jefferson’s defense was most effective on Kelly Kaltenbach and Tessa Pucello, holding them to just four points apiece.
So ended a 2007-08 season that included a 9-0 start, a memorable trip to Disney World in Florida and a deeper run through the playoffs than ever before. Without Chavez-Egan, Kaltenbach or Griffo, this might prove more difficult next winter, but Pucello and Liz Martinez will try to make it happen.