Lakers topple Westhill, win league championship

Though they like to share most things, the Cazenovia girls basketball team was not in the mood to share the OHSL Liberty division regular-season championship with anyone else.

To that end, the Lakers (17-3) clinched the outright league title on a festive Friday night at Buckley Gym, using a second-quarter offensive explosion and consistent, relentless defense to pound Westhill 53-34.

They had first met on Feb. 1, at Westhill, when the Lakers claimed first place by erasing a 10-point second-half deficit to beat the Warriors 47-42.

Kiley Evans (20 points, nine of them in the fourth quarter) and Kassie Kleine (the go-ahead 3-pointer, plus holding Carly Cooper to 11 points and no 3-pointers) took starring roles in that initial meeting.

For the rematch, on Senior Night for Evans, Kleine, Lindsey Smith and Katie Mullins, it would be no different, though Cazenovia would not wait as long to make its big move.

The Lakers carried a modest 11-9 edge through an evenly played first quarter. But at the start of the second period, Evans hit a pair of long 3-pointers, and when Kleine also connected twice from the outside, Cazenovia began to pull away.

Every shot seemed to fall for the Lakers, while the Warriors went ice-cold and managed just a single field goal against Cazenovia's tough, disciplined defense.

All told, it amounted to a 23-2 outburst, something Westhill used to do to other teams in years past. That made it 34-11 at halftime, and for the rest of the night Cazenovia nursed its big lead and never let the Warriors get too close.

Matching her earlier Westhill effort, Evans had 21 points, while forward Ashley Stec worked her way to nine points. Kleine augmented her six points with another supreme defensive effort, as she, with help from Laker teammates, held Cooper to a scant five points. Annie O'Connor led Westhill with 12 points.

When the Section III playoff brackets came out on Sunday, Cazenovia ended up on the Class B-1 side of the Section III playoffs this time around (it won the B-2 title a year ago) and has the no. 2 seed.

Thus, the Lakers must wait until next Tuesday to start its post-season run against no. 7 seed Solvay in the B-1 quarterfinals, and one more encounter with Westhill could await in the B-1 semifinals later that week.

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