Mar 06, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A fair amount of talent, along with the ability to perform at one’s best when the pressure is greatest, has made the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team back-to-back Section III Class AA champions.
And bit of good fortune helped, too.
All those elements – the talent, the poise in the clutch, and one huge break – were present Saturday at Utica Memorial Auditorium when the Northstars beat Corcoran, 54-52, for the Class AA title.
Trailing by 11 at one point in the fourth quarter, CNS made it all the way back, then held on at the end as the Cougars had numerous chances to tie or pull ahead.
Not until Breanna Stewart landed one of her trademark blocks on Nadia Jackson’s jump shot as time ran out could the Northstars celebrate a second title to add to the crown it won in 2009.
Still, it took what CNS head coach Eric Smith called a “really lucky break” to thwart Corcoran’s quest to reclaim the title it won a year before the Northstars took over.
The Cougars were up, 48-37, having broken open a tight contest with two different 7-0 spurts in the third quarter. All through this, Corcoran point guard Coriesha Hickey handled the ball with ease and confidence, dashing past whatever the CNS defense threw at her.
“We couldn’t stop her”, Smith said.
True enough – but a cramp did stop Hickey, sending her to the sidelines midway through the fourth quarter, just as the Northstars were starting to eat away at that double-digit deficit.
Hickey did not return – and CNS took full advantage.
The 13-1 run that turned things around included two lay-ups from freshman Cara Gannett, who started in place of fellow freshman Abbey Timpano so that the Northstars could counter Corcoran’s strong inside game.
A 3-pointer by Kelsey Mattice made it 49-48, and when Brittany Paul hit a lay-up with 2:57 to play, CNS had a 50-49 lead. The entire spurt consumed less than three minutes of clock.
Smith said that, despite his team’s relative youth, they relish playing at this level – as the comeback showed.
“They love big games and they love the stage,” he said.
Corcoran looked broken. Not only was Hickey sidelined, but another starter, Ayana Bradley, fouled out with 1:40 left.
Still, with CNS leading 53-50, Carrie Blunt hit a lay-up to close the margin to one, and after a Stewart free throw, the Cougars’ Mary Morgan saw a possible go-ahead 3-pointer rattle off the rim.
Fouled with 9.2 seconds left and her team up by two, Gannett missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Blunt got the rebound. She passed it to Jackson, who pulled up at the top of the key – but Stewart easily swatted away her last chance.
Stewart, in an all-out effort, finished with 16 points. Paul had 12 points and Brittney Fedele worked her way to 11 points as Mattice got nine points and Gannett finished with six points. Together, they showed how diversified CNS’s offense had become, in a way that resembled its win over Corcoran a month ago.
All this proved, said Smith, was that having a star like Stewart was nice — but that more was needed to win a title, and his entire roster came through.
“Everyone that played (in this game) did something for us today,” he said.
CNS will play next Saturday at 1:45 against Section II champion Shenendehowa in the Class AA regional final at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. The winner gets to return to HVCC on March 19-20 for the state Class AA final four.
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