At the very last moment, the Cazenovia girls basketball team's dreams of an undefeated regular season fell apart - but it might get the last word against that same opponent.
The Lakers, no. 10 in the state Class B rankings, put its perfect 17-0mark on the line Thursday night in the regular-season finale at Jordan-Elbridge, and walked away on the wrong end of a 50-40 defeat to the state no. 20-ranked Eagles.
A lot of factors would help J-E on this night. Perhaps the biggest one was that it was playing at home in front of a loud, jam-packed crowd that included a big student section and an energetic pep band, and the noise was constant from tip-off to final buzzer.
Also, the Eagles, at 15-2, wanted payback for the 52-39 defeat it took to Cazenovia on Jan. 13, a game that was tight in the fourth quarter until J-E's star center, Molly Hourigan, went to the bench with an injury, allowing the Lakers to take over.
Hourigan would play the full 32 minutes here - and notched a triple-double, amassing 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks. More importantly, she and the rest of J-E's defense would throw Cazenovia off course in the late stages.
At first, it looked like the Lakers had weathered its early troubles, erasing a 20-12 first-half deficit to take a 30-26 lead early in the third quarter. Not only was Raeanne Clabeaux tormenting the Eagles for 17 points (she would finish with 19), but Hourigan had three fouls.
Yet J-E's 2-3 zone kept on harassing Cazenovia's forwards, especially Ashley Stec, who had just one basket all night as Hourigan, aided by Erin McLaughlin, Natalie Andrianos and Kelsey Richardson, made sure Stec never got any room to take open shots.
In a nine-minute span, stretching deep into the fourth quarter, Cazenovia had just one field goal, but only trailed 43-40 with 2:30 to play. Then Hourigan made back-to-back baskets, with some blocks in between, and J-E added three more free throws in the final minute to lock things up.
Taylor Malmsheimer finished with seven points, while Colleen Dougherty and Ellen Burr both got six points. On J-E's side, Kali Davis (nine points) and Andrianos (eight points) gave Hourigan the main help.
Cazenovia and J-E might not be done with each other. They likely will draw the no. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively, for the Section III Class B playoffs, so if the seeds hold, the Lakers and Eagles would meet a third time in the semifinal round, to break the regular-season tie and determine who would play for a championship.