Mar 03, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
True, many honors have flooded toward Breanna Stewart, but she’s most pleased about what she and her Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball teammates have done together.
And that resume now includes four consecutive Section III Class AA championships, the fourth of them attained Friday night as the Northstars breezed past the Wildcats 69-33 in the sectional final at the Carrier Dome.
“Four straight (titles) is pretty good,” said Stewart. “It’s a great accomplishment.”
In barely three quarters of game action, Stewart, the leading scorer in Section III history with 2,218 points, attained 30 points, the Connecticut-bound senior again using her overwhelming array of skills, on the offensive and defensive ends, to snuff out the Wildcats’ challenge.
All this followed another wave of positive publicity for Stewart. She was named the 2012 Naishmith Girls Basketball Player of the Year and will be honored at a dinner March 22 in Atlanta. Stewart also made an appearance in the weekly “Faces in the Crowd” feature of this week’s issue of Sports Illustrated.
Not to be forgotten, though, was the small detail of going to the Dome and winning the sectional final against a fourth different opponent after topping Fayetteville-Manlius in 2009, Corcoran in 2010 and Utica Proctor in 2011.
West Genesee had not won a sectional title since 1994. And the odds were long here, especially considering that C-NS had throttled them 89-31 in their lone regular-season encounter in January.
It didn’t help, either, that Melissa Fumano, WG’s star sophomore forward, was out of action, attending the wedding of her brother, planned long before the Wildcats made it to the sectional final.
Fans from Camillus arrived in the Dome donning gold “Duel in the Dome” T-shirts, and were encouraged by an ice-cold from the Northstars, who did not have a point in the first 2:45 before Sarah Bowles hit on a breakaway layup.
From there, it didn’t take long for the duel to turn into another clinical exhibition of all-around play from the defending state AA champions.
Again, after every made basket and free throw, the Northstars unleashed its full-court pressure, contesting every inch and forcing WG into turnovers. Even when the Wildcats got shots, Stewart would block them, or on three occasions the 30-second shot clock would run out.
Abbey Timpano hit on back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the first quarter to key a 14-0 spurt. Not until the last minute of the period did the Wildcats get a field goal, which made it 14-3.
Held without a field goal in that first quarter, Stewart quickly made up for it by getting 14 of her team’s first 16 points in the second period on everything from rebound baskets to a 3-pointer from the top of the key. She also made all six of her free-throw attempts in the half.
It wasn’t a one-player effort, either. Timpano and Bowles both had eight points in the half. But Stewart’s second 3-pointer, which gave her 17 for the period and 21 points overall, and a deft pass to Elizabeth Miles for an open layup just before the horn, made it 41-13 at the break.
To its credit, WG’s effort never wavered, as it stayed closer to the Northstars for a longer period than other local opponents.
“My kids battled,” said Wildcat head coach Dan Hallinan. “We did not play scared and we played hard.”
Still, the Northstars proved too tough, as Stewart left the game early in the fourth quarter, having garnered tournament MVP honors. Bowles (who had 13 points) and Timpano (who got eight points) joined Stewart on the All-Tournament team, as did WG’s Emily Tripodi.
C-NS will face Section II champion Colonie next Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, and with another win will return to that same arena for the March 16-17 state final four, where the Northstars won the state title a year ago.
Given all the tough foes it has faced in tournaments from Massachusetts from Arizona, said C-NS head coach Eric Smith, it won’t be fazed by the pressure as the state tournament goes along.
“We don’t get caught up in the environment,” said Smith. “We relish it and look forward to it.”
Stewart agreed. “You don’t want to end (your high school career) with a loss,” she said. “Practices will only get us better. We’re not done yet.”