Cazenovia Having claimed two of the last three Section III Class B championships, the Cazenovia girls basketball team know that, in 2011-12, it would not be as easy.
From a 21-2 side that went all the way to the state final four in Troy last March, the Lakers saw four starters depart – Ashley Stec, Raeanne Clabeaux, Ellen Burr and Taylor Malmsheimer.
Only Colleen Dougherty is back among the starting five, but the Lakers’ system, emphasizing all-out, relentless defense from opening tip-off to final buzzer, is sturdy enough to prevent too much of a drop-off.
Cazenovia proved this in Friday night’s opener against Cortland in the refurbished Buckley Gym, nearly surprising the Class A-contending Purple Tigers before a late-game drought led to a 38-37 defeat.
It didn’t start out as a low-scoring affair, as the two sides tied 15-15 after one period. But the defenses settled in during the second quarter, and Cazenovia stood up well, inching ahead of Cortland 23-21 going into the break.
That margin grew to 34-27 entering the final period, as three new starters accounted for most of the offense.
Maggie Carpenter, a reserve last year, had 11 points, while Courtney Maxwell and Kristie Kleine earned eight points apiece. Caroline Franz had four points as Dougherty, Sally Langan and Kaitlyn Gerber each had one field goal.
But they all hit a drought at the worst possible time, getting just three points in the final period. That allowed Purple Tigers star Maggie Brown, who passed 1,000 career points earlier in the week, to hit several key shots as Cortland got ahead in the final stages. Brown finished with 18 points, nearly half her team’s output.
As this went on, Chittenango’s season began at home against Oneida, and it proved just as close – but the Bears, unlike Cazenovia, ended up on the winning side, edging the Indians 30-28.