While it still waited for Ashley Stec's ankle to heal, the Cazenovia girls basketball team endured its biggest scare of the young season during Monday's opening round of the Unadilla Valley Tournament.
Up against Harpursville in the first round, the Lakers had to battle until the final possession, but did enough to register a 45-43 victory.
From the start, Harpursville showed that it could work past Cazenovia's formidable defenses and get baskets. This kept things close, as the Lakers only led 28-23 going into halftime.
No matter what it tried, Cazenovia could not pull away, the game in doubt deep into the fourth quarter, but led by Taylor Malmsheimer, the Lakers held on.
All Malmsheimer did was pour in 20 points, nearly half of Cazenovia's output, and sank four 3-pointers along the way. Ellen Burr finished with nine points, while Colleen Dougherty produced eight points and Raeanne Clabeaux got six points.
In Tuesday's final against Sherburne-Earlville (who beat host Unadilla 53-42 to get to this point), the Lakers had a far easier time of it, rolling past the Marauders 53-30.
Again, Cazenovia's defense seized the spotlight, especially in a second quarter where it held S-E to just five points, allowing the Lakers to slide into a 26-13 lead.
All through the second half, the margin kept growing. Malmsheimer (named the tournament MVP) cooled off, to six points, but Clabeaux and Burr stepped up, providing inside-outside balance. Clabeaux's 18 points included both of Cazenovia's 3-pointers on the day, while Burr took control in the paint and also had 18 points.
As this was going on, Cazenovia's boys basketball team, who had beaten Marcellus just before the holiday break, continued that momentum into the Fabius-Pompey Tournament - and almost earned the championship of that event.
The Lakers beat the host F-P Falcons 56-44 in Tuesday's opening round. More steady than spectacular, Cazenovia methodically built a 43-29 lead through three periods, so it had the margin to withstand the Falcons' late surge.