A trip to the semifinal round was something the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team had done before -- the previous two years, in fact.
What the no. 3 seed Northstars wanted to do Friday night at Liverpool was, finally, get past that threshold, which would require beating no. 2 seed Christian Brothers Academy.
To say the least, CNS succeeded.
With Breanna Stewart finding new and different ways to impact the game, and the defense setting a new high standard, the Northstars pummeled the Brothers, 54-31, setting up a trip to Utica Memorial Auditorium for this Saturday's AA final against Fayetteville-Manlius.
Attempting to end a championship drought that dates back to 1985 (long before any of the current players were born), CNS had the right design to deal with a CBA team known for a high-scoring, high-octane attack.
From the opening tip, the Northstars sent guard Ashley Waldron in pursuit of Leanne Ockenden, a junior known for her outside shooting that already has surpassed 1,000 career points. Fellow guards Marybeth Egan, Morgan Nandin and Brittany Paul also took turns defending Ockenden during the night.
Together, their work was close to perfect. Aside from a 3-pointer in the game's first two minutes, Ockdenden did not score all night, while her backcourt mate, Niagara University-bound senior Kayla Stroman, had to work hard for her 14 points.
"Our goal was to have Leanne take every single shot with a hand in her face," CNS head coach Eric Smith said.
Despite this, CNS trailed until the second quarter, when Stewart put on a singular effort that only the highly-touted freshman could pull off.
In a short span, Stewart hit three baskets (including a 3-pointer), blocked three shots, grabbed rebounds, earned a pair of steals and even threw a long pass to assist on Egan's lay-up. Put together, it helped the Northstars go on a 19-6 run to close the half and pull ahead for good.