SYRACUSE Going into Thursday night's key mid-season clash, the Cazenovia girls basketball team knew that it had the talent and capability to take down undefeated Westhill.
But pulling it off is another matter, as the Lakers would find out during a big second-half spurt that pushed the state Class B no. 2-ranked Warriors to a 49-39 victory.
What was a close, tense contest where neither side could put together any sustained offense changed the moment Anna Ross sank a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to break a 27-27 tie.
Over the next five-plus minutes, Westhill would rattle off 18 unanswered points. Ross had the first seven of those points, and Maggie Tripodi, scoreless until that point, earned seven of her nine points during that run.
To that point, both sides had reasons to feel frustration. For Lakers head coach Chris Carpenter, it was seeing his players gain a decided advantage on the boards, only to throw it away by missing a month's worth of close-up shots.
Westhill head coach Sue Ludwig had a different problem. She said her team was sluggish in practice the day before, and it carried over into the first half of this game, where the Warriors' defense forced plenty of turnovers, but could not find any offensive rhythm.
Only Sam Peebles broke out of that funk, as her seven first-quarter points helped Westhill inch ahead 11-6 late in the opening period. Just before halftime, the pace quickened, Cazenovia starting to find some baskets but unable to catch up as it trailed, 24-21, at the break.
Deep into the third quarter, the game remained elusive for both sides. Twice, the Lakers tied it, but after Maggie Johnson's free throw made it 27-27, Cazenovia would not score again until the final period, and go nearly eight minutes without a field goal.