Cazenovia About the only way that the Cazenovia girls basketball team could make Senior Night more special was to earn a landmark victory - like, say, one over an unbeaten, state Class B no. 2-ranked opponent.
That's exactly what the Lakers pulled off Tuesday night at Buckley Gym, toppling the Warriors 49-45 with a spirited, determined effort and uncommon poise down the stretch.
"It was the work of a bunch of girls who had the belief that they could win," said Cazenovia head coach Chris Carpenter.
And it wasn't like the Lakers (14-2) were a pushover, anyway, having risen to no. 22 in the same state Class B poll. It also remembered, vividly, the missed chances it had when it lost to Westhill 49-39 a month earlier, Carpenter saying his team missed 16 close-up shots in that first meeting.
This time, said senior point guard Kristie Kleine, "we worked a lot harder, and it definitely paid off. It shows that we can play with the best of the best."
Not right away, though, as the Lakers committed a rash of first-quarter turnovers, Westhill filling up the passing lanes and earning a bunch of steals to grab a 14-6 lead.
The Lakers' deficit grew as big as nine, 19-10, in the second period, but Cazenovia turned the game around by closing the half on an 11-1 run, with five of the points from Kleine, to lead 23-21 at the break.
Adjusting its defense and taking away the Warriors' inside game, the Lakers held Westhill without a field goal for more than seven minutes, a stretch that lasted deep into the third quarter.
"Our defense had to crash the boards in order to shut them down," said senior forward Maggie Carpenter.
Early in the final period, the Lakers were up 37-30 when Westhill stormed back with nine unanswered points in a span of less than a minute to go back in front, 39-37.