Feb 28, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In a pressure situation, and regardless of what had previously transpired, the Cazenovia girls basketball team wanted Kiley Evans to have the ball in her hands.
And with a single shot, Evans paid back for the faith the Lakers put in her.
Evans’ 3-pointer with 5.4 seconds left delivered for Cazenovia a 42-39 victory over Bishop Ludden and the Section III Class B-2 championship last Wednesday night at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.
What made the shot so impressive was the fact that Evans had struggled on the offensive side for much of the game and that, despite these struggles, the Gaelic Knights still figured the decisive play would involve her.
With 28 seconds to play in regulation, Ludden’s Bella Knapp had hit her own 3-pointer from the right corner to tie it, 39-39. Cazenovia called time-out, then put together what it hoped to be the last shot — with Evans involved.
We drew it up (the last play) to give her the ball,” said head coach Paul Harney. “We wanted the ball in her hands.”
Sure enough, as the clock ticked under 10 seconds, the ball went to Evans in the left corner, well beyond the 3-point line. Ludden double-teamed her, but chose not to foul, even though it had a handful of fouls to give and could have forced Cazenovia to inbound the ball again
The play gave Evans two choices — either firing to an open Carrie Stevens, or shooting. Evans fired away — and hit.
“I knew I had to take the shot when it counted,” said Evans. “It felt awesome, the best feeling ever.”
But it wasn’t quite over yet. Ludden had just enough time to rush down the court and have Molly Byrne attempt a tying 3-pointer at the buzzer that fell of the front of the rim, allowing Cazenovia to celebrate.
Everything about this game pointed toward a fierce battle. Cazenovia had beaten Ludden twice in the regular season, but both of those games were close and one had gone to overtime. With so much knowledge of each other, it figured to be close again.
Adding to that, said Harney, was the fact that some of his players were still recovering from late-season illnesses and that practices had been uneven, too, because of those illnesses and weather-enforced cancellations.
What had not gone away, though, was the Lakers’ defense, something that the Gaelic Knights would find out soon enough.
Cazenovia held Ludden without a point in the game’s first four minutes. Also, during a stretch that included the second and third periods, it shut out the Gaelic Knights for a stretch of more than nine minutes.
Yet the combination of Evans’ early struggles, along with foul trouble to Stevens and Rachel Hardke made it difficult for Cazenovia to take control. It never led by more than eight points (a 27-19 margin in the third quarter) all night.
Ludden erased that by the early part of a tense, exciting fourth quarter that featured four ties and six lead changes. Down 36-35, the Lakers reclaimed the lead on back-to-back baskets by Sarah Mullins and Molly Dougherty before Knapp’s 3-pointer set up the final act.
Dougherty would match Evans as they produced 14 points. In fact, it was Dougherty’s strong effort that allowed Evans to shake off her struggles as her role grew larger toward game’s end.
Molly Byrne carried Ludden’s attack much of the night, finishing with 16 points to top all individuals, as Knapp and Ashley Cianfriglia (despite great defense offered by Kassie Kleine) earned eight points apiece.
What it all came down to, though, was Cazenovia’s top player hitting the kind of shot a star player does when stakes are high.
On Saturday, Cazenovia faces five-time defending champion South Jefferson in the overall Class B final at Onondaga Community College. The Spartans beat Solvay 44-34 in the B-1 title game at J-D to get this far.