Only twice this season has the Cazenovia girls basketball team played with its full lineup - and it has not mattered one bit.
The Lakers are 9-0 midway through its regular-season schedule and seized first place in the Onondaga High School League Liberty division Thursday night when it closed strong and rallied past fellow unbeaten Jordan-Elbridge 52-39 at Buckley Gym.
It helped, no doubt, that J-E, who entered the night at 7-0, played down the stretch without its all-state center, Molly Hourigan, who suffered a hyperextended knee falling to the court early in the fourth quarter. Without Hourigan to worry about, Cazenovia closed the game on a 20-2 run, holding the Eagles without a field goal in the last 7:39 of the game.
Of course, the Lakers could relate to J-E's concerns about absent starters. It played for a month without senior forward Ashley Stec, and in Monday night's 38-30 victory over Solvay, senior guard Raeanne Clabeaux missed the game due to illness.
Yet another missing starter threatened Cazenovia's perfect mark on this night, as senior forward Ellen Burr was ill and could not play. Caroline Franz took Burr's spot, just as she had filled in for Stec earlier in the season, and Franz, along with Stec and Maggie Carpenter, would take turns defending Hourigan, using double and triple teams when necessary.
Both teams made first-quarter runs, the Lakers opening with an 8-2 lead, the Eagles countering with eight straight points - four of them from Hourigan, whose imposing inside presence has led to triple-doubles in points, rebounds and blocks five different times this season.
Overall, Hourigan had 12 points in the first half - but Clabeaux and Stec earned seven points apiece, and Cazenovia led late in the first half before J-E moved back in front, 25-22, at halftime. The third quarter proved just as tight, the Eagles staying out in front because Kali Davis assumed the offensive burden.