The slow, steady ascent of the Jordan-Elbridge girls basketball team into the contender's realm continues -- and a huge home win had a lot to do with speeding up the process.
Balanced on the offensive end and tough on the defensive end, the Eagles were in control through much of Wednesday's game against defending Section III Class B champion Cazenovia, and held on at the end to beat the Lakers 53-51.
Granted, Cazenovia did see its top player (Kiley Evans) and top defender (Kassie Kleine) graduate from its 2008-09 title team, but it still had a pair of terrific forwards in Ellen Burr and Ashley Stec, and J-E couldn't relax.
Indeed, the Eagles were ready from the opening tip, especially on defense. It held Cazenovia to a scant 13 points in the first half, shutting off Burr and Stec and forcing the Lakers to rely on outside shots -- many of them not falling.
Even when the pace quickened in the third quarter, J-E met it, and kept a 40-31 lead until the fourth quarter. Here, despite the Lakers finding its rhythm and pouring in baskets, the Eagles would hang on.
And it did so through a well-balanced attack. Liz Caspari led with 13 points, but Kali Davis (12 points) and Molly Hourigan (10 points) were close behind, with Grace Dungey contributing eight points. The Lakers lost despite Burr getting 14 points, with Stec and Raeanne Clabeaux earning 13 points apiece.
In boys action, J-E led going into the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's game at Cazenovia, but could not hold on in a 64-60 loss to the Lakers.
Tom Graf had another big night for the Eagles, pouring in 26 points as J-E steadily built a 38-32 halftime lead and maintained that margin until the end of the third period.
Other than Graf, though, Jeff Donofrio (10 points) was the only Eagle player in double figures, and that would come back to hurt J-E as Cazenovia came back late, outscoring the visitors 21-11 in those last eight minutes. Chad Dorrance had 15 points, while Chris Schaffner and Max Kellish earned 14 points apiece.