When the month of February started, the Westhill girls basketball team understood that a path to any kind of grand success this season lay through Cazenovia.
Twice, the Warriors tried to solve the Lakers' riddle. Twice, it got turned back, once through surrendering a 10-point lead at home Feb. 1, the other time in a one-sided loss at Buckley Gym 12 days later as the regular season ended.
Now came a third chance -- in Friday night's Section III Class B-1 semifinal at Jamesville-DeWitt. But that chapter would end like the previous two.
Again, defense served as the primary theme as the Warriors found itself unable, for the most part, to break Cazenovia's pressure, leading to a 41-30 defeat.
Much had been made of the fact that the Lakers had swarmed over Carly Cooper in each of those first two meetings, never letting her get open looks or find the shooting touch that had conquered so many other opponents.
Somehow, Cazenovia pulled it off again, to a larger degree, keeping Cooper occupied as she did not hit a field goal all night. All of her three points came from the free-throw line.
Westhill countered with its own fierce resistance, which helped it stay within sight for most of the game. With Annie O'Connor working her way inside to 15 points, the Warriors only trailed, 31-27, with one period to play. Any sort of offensive outburst might turn things around.
But the Lakers made sure that never took place, wearing down the Warriors in the homestretch as senior Kiley Evans worked her total to 20 points and Cazenovia advanced to the B-1 final against defending champion South Jefferson.
For the season, Westhill went 18-4, having figured out everyone except one huge nemesis that would be responsible for three of those defeats.
Now Cooper departs, headed for Siena, with O'Connor, Sam Marshall, Valerie Golembiewski, Bridget Stack and Emily Mangicaro also graduating. Haggerty, Kathryn Christensen and Kayla Stirpe will be counted on as leaders next winter as Westhill looks to stay near the top.