Feb 13, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Amid a historic push by Tessa Pucello, the Solvay girls basketball team would play its last three regular-season games within a span of 48 hours, needing to win them all to assure itself of a place in the Section III Class B playoffs.
Somehow, the Bearcats pulled it off.
And Solvay capped this run with Friday night’s 51-39 home victory over Phoenix to end up at 8-10 – exactly the record it needed to move into the post-season.
The first act of this remarkable three-act drama came Wednesday night, at Hannibal, where the Bearcats made the Warriors pay for the attention given to Pucello and won by a score of 50-40.
Seeing that Pucello had dropped 39 points on Jordan-Elbridge Feb. 5, Hannibal concentrated its entire defense on making sure she didn’t get close to those numbers again.
For a while, it worked. Pucello struggled to get open looks, and Solvay saw an early 12-7 lead dissipate as Hannibal took a 30-29 edge to the fourth quarter.
But the Bearcats went back in front in the late stages and used free throws to clinch it. Abbey Jones exploited the attention on Pucello (who had 12 points) and led both sides with 17 points. Jones and Pucello each hit on seven free throws. Tiffany Guinta had eight points, while Denyel Busch earned seven points.
Now came what looked to be the toughest test, as Solvay hosted Cazenovia Thursday, though it caught the Lakers coming right off a loss to Westhill the night before — and the Lakers were without its leading scorer, Ashley Stec, who got hurt late in the Westhill game.
Sure enough, the Bearcats beat Cazenovia 53-45. The Lakers had a 27-24 edge at halftime, but despite Raeanne Clabeaux’s 21 points, the Lakers could not hold on as Solvay wore them down in the late going.
Pucello, honored before the game for her 1,000-point milestone, made more history as she pulled down 24 points. When Pucello hit two free throws with 35 seconds to play, she broke Sandy (Ponza) Sutherland’s career scoring mark of 1,034, which was set in the early 1980s — and Sutherland was present to congratulate Pucello.
As for the help, Cierra Garner battled her way into double figures, earning 10 points, while Jones finished with nine points. Pucello hit all eight of the foul shots she attempted.
Now a playoff berth hinged on Friday’s game against Phoenix. Fighting nerves, pressure and the inevitable fatigue that three win-or-else games in three nights can cause, the Bearcats came through again.
Needing a quick start, Solvay got it, playing strong defense and not letting up until it had a 25-15 halftime lead, steeling itself against the possible wear that would show up in the second half.
Sure enough, Phoenix controlled the third quarter and pulled within 32-29, adding to the tension. But the Bearcats stayed in front and, with Pucello hitting her free throws at the end, a trip to the playoffs was clinched.
Overall, Pucello had 19 points, while Garner continued to improve, working her way to 12 points as Jones got eight points and Busch earned six points. Kaylee May and Sarah Bregg led Phoenix with 10 points apiece.