Solvay girls hoops surges to playoff berth

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.

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