SYRACUSE From a 6-12 mark a season ago, the West Genesee girls basketball team made a turnaround this winter that was nothing short of remarkable, going all the way to the Section III Class AA finals.
Here, the ride ended, as Breanna Stewart and defending state champion Cicero-North Syracuse beat the Wildcats 69-31 last Friday night at the Carrier Dome, but that result could not disguise the overall accomplishments.
"My kids battled," said Wildcat head coach Dan Hallinan. "We did not play scared and we played hard."
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, though, it didn't take long for the duel to turn into another clinical exhibition of all-around play from the defending state AA champions.
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.