At this time a year ago, the Cazenovia boys basketball team was recuperating from a bruising end of a 5-13 campaign, wondering when, or if, things would turn around.
Now the Lakers soar into the Section III Class B playoffs with a 14-4 mark, having proudly earned the OHSL Liberty American division regular-season title.
Cazenovia formally clinched that league crown last Wednesday night, going to Hannibal and working hard to produce a 47-43 victory over the Warriors.
Facing early trouble, the Lakers were down, 17-11, before its defense tightened and it held Hannibal to just two points in the second period.
Now with a 22-19 halftime edge, Cazenovia spent the rest of the game fending off Hannibal’s numerous charges and making all the stops it needed, too.
Tanner Whiteman led with 13 points, but Andrew Vogl was close behind as he got 12 points. Kevin Hopsicker and Darian Smith offered the help, with seven points apiece. Hannibal’s Darryl Rupert led both sides with 18 points.
Before going to Hannibal, the Lakers had one more chance to entertain the home fans at Buckley Gym, and did so last Monday night with a 76-36 romp over Adirondack.
Already in the lead, Cazenovia made its getaway in the game’s middle stages. Over the course of the second and third period, the Lakers outscored the Wildcats 44-18, ending the suspense.
Vogl continued his strong return from a mid-season injury, finishing with 15 points. Whiteman led with 19 points, while Chad Warren picked up nine points and David McEntee got eight points. All 11 Cazenovia players that saw action got at least one field goal.
When the Section III Class B playoff pairings were released on Sunday, the Lakers had the no. 4 seed, so it hosts no. 13 seed Westhill (the two-time defending sectional champions) in Tuesday night’s opening round. A win here, and Cazenovia hosts Sherburne-Earlville or Marcellus in the quarterfinals later this week.