By any measurable standard, and against most other opponents, the effort the Cazenovia girls basketball team showed in last Saturday's Section III Class B final against South Jefferson at Onondaga Community College would merit a championship.
Yet in the end, it was the Spartans that walked away with its sixth consecutive sectional title, fighting past the Lakers 43-39 in a game few in the packed OCC gymnasium would forget.
How close was it? That four-point margin, at the end, was the largest either team had in the entire second half.
What made the difference, said head coach Paul Harney, was the fact that his team made just enough mistakes to allow South Jefferson to slip through.
"We battled and competed and worked hard, just as we did all year," he said. "But turnovers killed us."
Despite those turnovers, Cazenovia still found itself with a chance to tie or win the game in the final seconds.
Down 41-39 after a Rachael Bassett free throw, the Lakers had the ball, just as it did when Kiley Evans hit her 3-pointer from the corner to beat Bishop Ludden in the Class B-2 final three nights earlier.
Remembering what happened there, South Jefferson forced Evans far outside, keeping her from anything close to an open look.
Still, this left Molly Dougherty open on the left baseline. From 15 feet out with 5.3 seconds left, Dougherty took a shot, missed -- but got fouled.
With two successful free throws, Dougherty could tie the game. But she missed the first, and when the second shot went off target, Spartan forward Linsey Niles got the rebound, forcing Cazenovia to foul with 4.1 seconds to play. Niles hit both foul shots to clinch South Jefferson's victory.
That was merely the final part of what had been an extraordinary contest where, right to the last possession, the outcome was in issue.