Lakers drop tight regional final to Oneonta

Having already done more than any of its predecessors, the Cazenovia girls basketball team did not intend to stop with just a Section III Class B championship.

In fact, the Lakers came within a few inches of doing something bigger, only to be denied Saturday in a 36-33 loss to Section IV champion Oneonta in the Class B regional finals at Liverpool High School.

Once ahead by as much as nine, Cazenovia's lead melted away in the face of a star turn by Oneonta guard Madie Harlem, who notched 30 of her team's 36 points.

Yet the Lakers kept its poise and, as the clock wound down in regulation, had three different chances to go to overtime, each opportunity a senior trying to prolong this magical run.

With a Yellowjackets defender all over her at the baseline, Lindsey Smith tried a 3-pointer. It rimmed out.

Somehow, diminutive Laker guard Kassie Kleine found the rebound, raced outside and took another tying 3-point chance. It, too, caromed off the rim.

And when Kiley Evans' last attempt also missed the mark, Oneonta had advanced to the state final four this weekend in Troy, leaving Cazenovia flush with heartache.

But that despair was temporary, for the Lakers had already done far more than what might have been expected this season, especially given the turmoil at the start.

When Paul Harney, who coached Cazenovia to the Section III Class B-2 title a year ago, was not allowed back on the bench this season, the school hired Steve Miles to take over.

Miles brought experience from years of building a winning program at Fayetteville-Manlius. That, combined with the senior leadership of Evans, Kleine, Smith and Katie Mullins, plus the contributions of Ashley Stec, Ellen Burr and Tori Widrick, proved to be quite potent.

The Lakers won the OHSL Liberty division title, beat long-time nemesis Westhill three times within the span of a month, ended South Jefferson's six-year sectional reign in the B-1 finals (despite a season-ending leg injury to Stec) and overwhelmed Clinton for the overall sectional championship.

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