For a large portion of the 2016-17 season, the notion that the Skaneateles boys basketball team would get anywhere close to a Section III Class B championship bordered on fantasy.
Just getting into the sectional tournament required the 6-12 Lakers to win its last two regular-season games against Phoenix and Hannibal – which it did. Then it got a 10-day break which, in many cases, can quash any momentum built up before.
Instead, saddled with a no. 13 seed and low expectations, Skaneateles began to produce something special, going to no. 4 seed Sherburne-Earlville in its Feb. 17 playoff opener and prevailing 62-47. And it didn’t stop there.
The sectional quarterfinal Tuesday night pitted Skaneateles against its Lakers counterparts, no. 5 seed Cazenovia, at Buckley Gym. A month removed from a regular-season defeat on this same court, the visiting Lakers turned it around, stunning Cazenovia 60-45 with a tremendous effort down the stretch.
Though Skaneateles had lost that game back on Jan. 13, it took lots of encouragement from the 69-61 decision, mainly the fact that it had scored well against a normally tough Cazenovia defense,
Combine that with the improvement made in its own resistance, and Skaneateles was ready for the playoff rematch, staying patient through a first half where neither side could gain any decided advantage.
Once it found itself leading 22-20 at the break, Skaneateles began to break through in the third quarter, and while Cazenovia could keep up for a while, those efforts were turned back in a final period where, playing well on both ends, the visiting Lakers outscored the hosts 17-8 to close it out.
Even better was the way the offensive production was spread around. Instead of too much from the likes of Jake Reed, Skaneateles got four players in double figures as Ben Delasin led with 16 points and Reed got 12 points.
Jeremy Castle hit three 3-pointers to account for most of his 11 points, while Justin McClanahan connected twice beyond the arc on his way to 10 points and Matt Neumann added eight points. Cazenovia, meanwhile, only had Thomas Bragg (12 points) and Austin Enders (11 points) score in double figures.
Remarkable as this all is for Skaneateles, it would get dwarfed by knocking off top-seeded, state no. 2-ranked Westhill, which the Lakers will attempt to do Saturday at 5 p.m. at Le Moyne College in the sectional Class B semifinal. The Warriors routed the Lakers 69-33 in their lone regular-season encounter on Dec. 8.