SYRACUSE Big names or small, veterans or younger players, the one constant throughout the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team's long reign as Section III Class AA champions has been an ability, when necessary, to forget everything else and just shut an opponent down.
And that quality was on full display Friday night at the Carrier Dome, where the Northstars once more turned to its defense and it came through in a big way, handling West Genesee 44-26 to earn its sixth consecutive sectional title.
"It's an amazing feeling," said junior forward Emilee Norris, whose game-high 14 points helped her earn tournament MVP honors.
Head coach Eric Smith called this a "pretty cool accomplishment" and said that, while this title did not offer greater satisfaction than the previous five, it still was special for its own reasons.
"I feel great for these kids," he said. "The seniors did a fantastic job tacking the younger kids to compete. I get into all them all year, so it's nice to see the reward."
Not the overwhelming favorite that it was in seasons past, C-NS only entered the sectional tournament as a no. 3 seed, but proceeded to play some of its best basketball in the post-season, rolling past Fayetteville-Manlius in the quarterfinals and rallying in the second half to beat no. 2 seed Nottingham in the semifinals.
Unlike with Nottingham, C-NS had beaten top seed West Genesee in the regular season, but that 52-38 verdict on Feb. 4 only provided partial satisfaction, since the Northstars didn't shoot well in that game and turned the ball over often, largely prevailing because the Wildcats could not recover from a cold start.
In the title-game rematch, WG did a better job, at least in the early going, finding its 1,000-point senior, Melissa Fumano, who had eight first-half points. The Wildcats also dominated on the boards early, getting all kinds of second and third-chance shots.