Without question, the gap in girls basketball between Cicero-North Syracuse and West Genesee, so large when they met last winter in the Carrier Dome for the Section III Class AA championship, has closed.
But it’s still there, and the Northstars, led by Hannah Nichols and Sarah Bowles, turned back the Wildcats’ challenge Tuesday night in Camillus, pulling away late to prevail 66-50.
The hot shooting of Nichols and her teammates helped give C-NS a 21-point first-half lead. WG nearly erased all of it before the Northstars displayed its depth and resilience in the homestretch.
With so much attention given to C-NS’s senior trio of Bowles, Abbey Timpano and Cara Gannett, the rest of the roster gets overshadowed at times, but not on this night.
Nichols, almost by herself, pushed the Northstars in front, hitting on 12 of her team’s first 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Bowles chimed in with a pair of baskets in the final minute of the first quarter to stretch C-NS’s lead to 20-9.
And it got more lopsided in the second period, WG falling behind 31-10 midway through that frame, the contest starting to resemble so many others for C-NS in its recent championship run.
Except that this time, the Wildcats fought back. Outside shots from Vicki Graveline and Jackie Pardee launched WG on a 14-6 run to close the half, which made it 37-24 at the break.
It didn’t stop there, either. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Melissa Fumano and Courtney Shoults launched a 10-0 run in the third period that cut C-NS’s edge to 41-38. At the same time, the Wildcats’ defensive pressure caused the Northstars to rush shots and turn the ball over.
Then, just like it did against Nottingham last Friday (when it closed on a 20-2 run to break open a close contest), C-NS answered the Wildcats’ challenge.
A steal and lay-up by Bowles at the end of the third quarter made it 43-38. Then Nichols returned to hit consecutive baskets to launch a decisive 16-5 run, keyed also by open 3-pointers from McKayla Roberts.
Bowles capped it off with two more late baskets, giving her 17 points on the night. But even that trailed the effort of Nichols, who set a career mark with 23 points as Roberts (nine points), Gannett (eight points) and Timpano (seven points) helped out.
Despite a strong team effort, again WG leaned, offensively, on Graveline, who had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Fumano, who contributed 16 points. Melissa Bakowski contributed six points.