Staring at an undefeated opponent and a top seed, the Jamesville-DeWitt girls basketball team stared right back for a long time in Wednesday night's Section III Class A semifinal against Whitesboro at Chittenango High School.
Only in the final stages did the 19-0 Warriors get away, ultimately beating the no. 4 seed Red Rams 62-51 - and while the defeat ended J-D's season and extended a title drought that dates back to 1998, that wait might soon end.
Going into this season, expectations for head coach Rob Siechen's Rams were modest, since it had to replace all five starters from a 15-5 squad that had reached last year's sectional semifinals before falling to eventual champion Cortland.
Despite that complete turnover, J-D nearly snagged the OHSL Freedom National division regular-season title, denied only in the final minute of the final game by CBA on Feb. 18. A week later, the Rams dismissed East Syracuse-Minoa 47-31 in the Class A quarterfinals.
And now J-D was back in the semifinal round, expected to be overwhelmed by a bigger, stronger and more experienced side from Whitesboro. Only the rout never materialized.
Trailing 15-10 after one period, J-D kept pace with the Warriors over the next two periods, easily breaking through Whitesboro's defenses thanks to a diverse, balanced attack. With one quarter to play, the Rams trailed, 44-40, and a major surprise was within reach.
Whitesboro would slowly put it out of reach, though, behind the work of guard Allie Cady, who led both sides with 22 points. Balancing that out, forward Francesca Cotrupe finished with 14 points and fellow front-line player Jennifer Deuel had 13 points.
No one on the Rams could match that production. Still, Kayleigh Cavanaugh had 12 points, with Cydney Goodrum (11 points) and Caitlin Cariseo (10 points) also hitting double figures. Stephanie Mannion had seven points and Lauren Beville added six points.
The best part about J-D's 12-8 campaign was that it earned most of the wins from January onward, and did so with a starting five entirely composed of underclassmen.
Only two reserves, Kara Capstraw and Monica Piccolo, depart, and the return of Cavanaugh, Beville, Cariseo, Goodrum, Mannion, Katie Maroney, Abby Smith and Arriell Mussi bodes well for a championship push in 2011-12.