Less than one quarter remained last Monday night at Buckley Gym, and the Cazenovia girls basketball team trailed Westhill by seven points, its chance at an undefeated regular season sinking.
But with a stepped-up defense and clutch shooting, both in the field and at the free-throw line, the Lakers roared back in the waning minutes and pulled out a 49-42 victory over the Warriors to improve to 13-0.
Cazenovia, the state's no. 10 Class B team, was on the court for the first time in 11 days, starting a stretch that, over the ensuing 11 days, it would play six times, culminating in a Feb. 17 showdown with Jordan-Elbridge.
This home game with Westhill was supposed to open the season way back on Dec. 8, but had twice been pushed back by weather. In the meantime, they had first played on the Warriors' home court Jan. 18, and Cazenovia trailed at halftime before holding Westhill to eight points in the second half and winning 41-32.
Defense would also play a critical role in the rematch. At one point in the first half, the Lakers, mixing both man-to-man and zone looks, held the Warriors without a field goal for more than 10 minutes. That, plus eight points from Raeanne Clabeaux and seven points from Ashley Stec, helped Cazenovia grab a 22-13 halftime lead.
All that changed in the third quarter, though. Westhill stepped up its tempo on both ends, and started to convert baskets from a wide variety of players, led by Anna Ross, who had seven of her 15 points in that frame. All told, the Warriors outscored the Lakers 23-10 in that frame.
It appeared to get worse when, with 6:56 left, Westhill's Maggie Tripodi sank a 3-pointer, putting Cazenovia behind 41-34. But the Warriors would convert just one free throw the rest of the night.