Cicero With its 5-0 start, the Baldwinsville girls basketball team had displayed a rapid amount of progress from the struggles of recent years, and even hinted that it could challenge some of the more established Section III Class AA contenders.
For the moment, though, the biggest catch of all – five-time defending sectional champion Cicero-North Syracuse – remains elusive, something the Bees found out, up close, in last Wednesday night’s 61-37 defeat to the Northstars.
Even after the graduation of Breanna Stewart, who led C-NS to back-to-back state titles in 2011 and ’12, C-NS had a strong senior class, including Abbey Timpano and Sarah Bowles, left over, and they were good enough to lead the Northstars back to the state final four last March.
Now Bowles and Timpano were gone, and C-NS, just 1-1 on the season, had not played for 10 days, since its second-place finish in the Dec. 7-8 Oneonta Tournament.
It's a young team, with two sophomores (McKayla Roberts and Samantha Tortora) and a junior (Emilee Norris) in the starting five and plenty of other underclassmen, including an eighth-grader (Amani Free), in the rotation.
Right away, though, it was apparent that, while the Bees have closed a good portion of the gap with C-NS, it remains in pursuit of the Northstars - just like any other local AA challenger
Never trailing, C-NS scored the game's first seven points and had a 20-7 lead by the early part of the second quarter, and the reasons were twofold.
On the defensive end, the Northstars applied half-court pressure, never letting the Bees' guards get comfortable. As a result, by the time B'ville did get open shots, inside and outside, it rushed them, leading to crucial misses. Emily Pascale, in particular, was contained, managing just four points, a season low.
Meanwhlie, C-NS was steady and productive from the start on the offensive end, anchored by Roberts, whose deft dribbling skills led to lots of open looks - and conversions.