Feb 23, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A difficult task – trying to upend the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team from its long-held Section III Class AA throne – is rendered impossible when the shots don’t fall.
West Genesee found this out in Friday night’s AA semifinal at Le Moyne College, picking a bad time to go cold as the top-seeded Northstars, led on both ends by seniors Abbey Timpano and Sarah Bowles, pulled away for a 60-28 victory.
On the offensive end, Timpano poured in 22 points, while Bowles earned 16 points. Defensively, they formed the focal points of a ‘triangle-and-two’ set that shut down WG’s top two players, Melissa Fumano and Vicki Graveline, throughout the night.
“They’re our two leaders,” said C-NS head coach Eric Smith. “And they love these big games.”
This, of course, was WG’s big chance to even things up after Breanna Stewart-led C-NS smashed them 69-33 in last March’s Class AA final in the Dome.
What the Wildcats learned, in pushing the post-Stewart Northstars to the fourth quarter in a 66-50 defeat on Jan. 29, was that it could hang around with the two-time defending state champions. Now WG just wanted to stay in it until the end, and see what happened from there.
C-NS, of course, had no intention of letting it reach that point. And it started to take over late in the first quarter with a 7-0 run in a span of less than 30 seconds.
Hannah Nichols, who burned WG for 24 points in that January encounter, launched the run, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner. Following a foul, Timpano hit a driving lay-up, and full-court pressure led to a quick turnover and basket from Bowles, making it 13-3 in a hurry.
All told, C-NS closed the period with a 12-1 spurt, and the Wildcats found itself down 18-4. Worse yet, when it did get shots and evaded the constant Northstars pressure, it could not make either close-up shots or free throws, going two-for-nine from the foul line in the first half.
It was that triangle-and-two set that hurt WG the most. Smith said the whole point was to force Wildcats players other than Fumano and Graveline to produce. And though Marissa Hudgens got 11 points and Melissa Bakowski added seven points, it was far from enough.
WG trailed 29-8 at halftime. C-NS had played far from its best game, but Timpano, with 11 first-half points, still outscored the Wildcats by herself, and Bowles (eight points) matched the opponent’s total.
Now C-NS just had to avoid a disaster to get back to the finals again. When the Wildcats jumped out of the gate in the third quarter and cut the margin to 31-15, Smith used a pair of time-outs to get his team back focused.
The response was an 8-0 run midway through the period that covered just a minute of game time and included 3-pointers from Bowles and Kelly Corbin. Timpano also hit from the beyond the arc as C-NS, with a 13-3 spurt to close the period, put it completely out of the Wildcats’ reach.
C-NS started out the post-season with one more impressive home-court effort in last Tuesday’s AA quarterfinal, where it took apart no. 8 seed Utica Proctor by a score of 80-23.
Though it already beat the Raiders twice this winter, C-NS took no chances in the third encounter, piling up 33 points in the first quarter alone. That torrid pace couldn’t be maintained, but the Northstars still led 44-13 at the break, and then put together a 16-2 third quarter, just to be sure.
By game’s end, 11 different players had converted field goals. Emilee Norris set a career mark with 16 points, matched by Timpano, who hit four 3-pointers. Bowles, with 14 points, was right behind them as Cara Gannett and Samantha Roberts got eight points apiece.
With Proctor and West Genesee behind them, C-NS faces no. 3 seed Corcoran in Thursday night’s AA final at the Dome. The Cougars held off no. 2 seed CBA 64-61 in the other semifinal, led by Mary Morgan’s career-high total of 29 points that included eight 3-pointers and the clinching free throws in the closing seconds.
C-NS did rout Corcoran 63-28 in the regular-season finale on Feb. 12, but the stakes for their rematch, just 16 days later, will be much higher as the Cougars try to reclaim the crown it last held in 2008 before the Northstars’ championship run began.
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