What the Cazenovia girls basketball team displayed in the first half of Sunday's Section III Class B championship game against Utica-Notre Dame was nowhere near the top form that had produced a 19-1 record leading up to the title game.
"We made silly passes and bad shots," said head coach Steve Miles. "That's not how we play."
But the second half of action at Utica Memorial Auditorium brought a return to what the Lakers consider normalcy - and the end result was a third sectional title in four years as it zoomed past the Jugglers 51-42.
Everything suddenly worked, from an aggressive offense that mostly relied on the production of seniors Ellen Burr and Raeanne Clabeaux to a defense that, anchored by Ashley Stec, Colleen Dougherty, Taylor Malmsheimer and Maggie Carpenter, frustrated UND into the same mistakes Cazenovia made early on.
Going in, the Lakers knew the key to UND's success was the way freshman Emily Durr could produce baskets from anywhere on the court. Yet Durr did just that in the first two periods, earning 14 points as, at one point, the no. 5 seed Jugglers led by as much as nine.
With its own offense sputtering (and Stec and Dougherty both picking up three early fouls), Cazenovia needed someone to keep them afloat - and it turned out to be Burr. In an echo of her heroics in leading the field hockey Lakers to a state championship last fall, Burr got 10 points in the first two periods, more than half her team's total as it stayed within touch despite all of its struggles.
"Ellen has great post moves, and she can finish," said Miles.
Down 22-16 at the break, the Lakers did little to change its defensive set-up. Instead, it clamped down in the familiar 2-3 zone and, with each player taking turns tracking Durr, held the rising UND star to just one field goal the rest of the way.