Whatever else the Cazenovia girls basketball team might do the rest of the way, it will be known as the team that ended South Jefferson's six-year reign as Section III Class B champions.
In Tuesday night's Class B-1 final at Jamesville-DeWitt High School, the Lakers relied on both strong defense and stronger senior leadership to beat the Spartans 41-31.
"It feels absolutely wonderful," head coach Steve Miles said. "To look at the smiles on their faces and to know that they beat the reigning champs is nice."
Each of the last two seasons, Cazenovia's season had ended at South Jefferson's expense, including a narrow 43-39 decision in last year's sectional final. From that near-miss, said Laker senior Kiley Evans, the team gained the belief that the Spartans could be conquered.
"We just had more confidence (this year), knowing that we could stick with them," she said.
What's more, the Lakers had an increased resolve, something that got tested right away when, less than a minute into the game, starting forward Ashley Stec took a charge -- and suffered an left ankle injury. Helped off the court, Stec would not return.
Such a quick and unexpected blow can stagger even the best of teams. But Evans said that didn't happen here.
"I just pulled the girls together and said we can do this anyway," she said.
Due to the injury, both Lindsey Smith and Tori Widrick saw increased minutes and fared quite well, especially on defense. Also, Ellen Burr took a larger role in the paint, earning eight points.
Mostly, though, the Lakers' defense led the way. Over the last 6:27 of the first half, Cazenovia did not allow a field goal, though South Jefferson's own sound defense kept the Lakers' lead at 15-10 going to the break.
In the third quarter, the seniors took over. Between them, Evans, Kassie Kleine and Katie Mullins accounted for all 16 of the team's points, everything from rebound baskets to a big 3-pointer by Kleine late in the period that made it 31-22.