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Girls hoops Raiders ousted by Solvay

A month ago, the Canastota girls basketball team was unbeaten and sneaking into the state rankings. Two weeks ago, Solvay was 3-10, all but certain to miss the Section III Class B playoffs.

It didn't take long for the fortunes of these teams to dramatically change.

The Raiders, despite a no. 4 seed and home-court advantage, saw its season come to an abrupt end last Tuesday night when the no. 13 seed Bearcats showed up and, led by its all-time leading scorer, Tessa Pucello, prevailed 48-31.

Just the fact that Solvay was here was close to miraculous. As Canastota breezed through most of its schedule, the Bearcats had to win its last five games -- three of them in consecutive days against Hannibal, Cazenovia and Phoenix -- just to get in the post-season.

Canastota was not at full strength, either, as it played without guard Alexis Havens. Worse yet, it would not get a single point from freshman Shea Foster, the team's leading scorer all season.

Both sides would manage just a single field goal in the opening period, and it wasn't until the latter stages of the second quarter that Canastota would start to falter.

And Pucello was largely responsible, the Solvay junior earning eight points during a 10-0 run. The Raiders would respond, though, and only trailed 20-14 at halftime.

For a while, Canastota stayed within sight, and were still down by six, 32-26, going to the fourth quarter. But it wore down in the face of Solvay's defensive pressure, and the Bearcats would advance to a Class B quarterfinal against Clinton.

Pucello, after not scoring in the first quarter, roared her way to 25 points, more than twice the total of Alicia Hibbard, who led Canastota with 12 points. Holly Marsh added nine points on the Raiders' side as Solvay's Abbey Jones (eight points) helped Pucello out.

The Raiders finished 2009-10 at 13-4 and will see two key seniors, Hibbard and Marsh, depart. The return of Foster, Havens and Lindsay McGinley next winter should keep Canastota formidable.

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