What had made the Cazenovia girls basketball team's 6-0 start so impressive was the fact that most of it was done without Ashley Stec, the Manhattan College-bound 6-foot senior forward who got injured in the Lakers' season-opening win over Bishop Ludden on Dec. 10.
Now Stec is back - and the Lakers, at full strength, remained perfect Friday night by going to East Syracuse and registering a 58-42 victory over Bishop Grimes.
Grimes, the 2009 Section III Class C champions who were undefeated in the 2009-10 regular season, moved up to the OHSL Liberty division this season amid a major roster turnover, but had split its first four league games, so it was by no means a pushover.
And it was close until the second quarter - when Cazenovia, utilizing its size advantage against the smaller Grimes lineup, outscored the Cobras 15-7. Eventually, the margin grew to 44-30 by the end of the third period as the Lakers continued to shine in all phases of the game.
Stec immediately made an impact on the defensive side, as her rebounding led to more scoring chances. Offensively, she only had one field goal and five points, but Cazenovia had already proven this season that it had many other options.
That includes forward Raeanne Clabeaux, who led both sides with 19 points, and Ellen Burr, who worked her way to 12 points, eight of them in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Maggie Carpenter chimed in with eight points and Colleen Dougherty threw in six points. Maria King led Grimes with 18 points.
So long as the Lakers get past Solvay on Monday night, it sets up a first-place showdown in the OHSL Liberty division next Thursday against Jordan-Elbridge at Buckley Gym. The state-ranked Eagles have started 6-0 and are led by junior forward Molly Hourigan, who has achieved four triple-doubles (double figures in points, rebounds and blocks) this season, including Friday's 49-37 win over Westhill where she had 17 points, 14 rebounds and 11 blocks.