When the Christian Brothers Academy returned to the Section III Class AA semifinals, it had no intentions of seeing its championship dreams get snuffed out at this point, just like they had been a year ago at Corcoran's expense.
But Cicero-North Syracuse didn't give the Brothers much of a choice in the matter.
Mostly through the Northstars' first-rate defensive effort, CBA got flustered early and never recovered in a 54-31 defeat last Friday night at Liverpool High School.
Going in, a big concern for the Brothers was what to do with CNS's highly-touted 6-3 freshman center, Breanna Stewart, whose shot-blocking ability can make any opponent think twice about going inside.
CBA's own young center, Victoria Johnson, would find some success with mid-range jumpers and put in 10 points, but the larger story was being written outside.
All of CNS's guards, especially Ashley Waldron, took turns hounding guards Kayla Stroman and Leanne Ockenden. While Stroman worked her way to 14 points, Ockenden never seemed to take a shot that wasn't contested, and didn't make a single basket after a 3-pointer in the game's first two minutes.
That gave the Northstars all kinds of time to take charge after CBA led throughout the first quarter. With Stewart doing everything from blocking three shots to hitting on a 3-pointer (plus a pair of steals and an assist), CNS outscored the Brothers 17-6 in that crucial second period and never would get caught.
By game's end, Stewart had 24 points, with Marybeth Egan adding 11 points. CNS advanced to meet Fayetteville-Manlius (who stunned top seed Corcoran) in this Saturday's AA final at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
From this year's squad that went 19-3, Stroman departs for Niagara University and Amy Callahan graduates, too. Everyone else, including Ockenden, Johnson and Michelle Damico, should come back in 2009-10, determined to keep CBA at a high level.