Feb 27, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
More than a decade has passed since the Liverpool girls basketball team last celebrated a Section III title.
This could change Saturday night, though, when the Warriors take on top seed Oswego in the Class AA championship at Onondaga Community College at 7:15.
All season long, Liverpool and Oswego were the two best AA teams. Their only regular-season meeting on Dec. 22 was a close affair where the Buccaneers came out on top.
“The two of us are evenly matched, and we are similar in many ways,” said head coach Mike Olley.
Liverpool, the no. 2 seed, went out last week and found a way past two familiar opponents to reach this title game.
To start with, Liverpool needed a big third quarter to fend off the challenge of no. 7 seed West Genesee in last and eliminate the Wildcats, 53-44.
Sluggish after a 10-day respite and a first-round playoff bye, Liverpool muddled through the first half with WG, taking a slim 22-21 lead to the break.
Everything perked up after halftime, though. Finding the weaknesses in the Wildcats’ defensive armor, the Warriors increased its production and, at the same time, clamped down on WG to produce a decisive 18-8 margin in the third quarter.
Point guard Tyler Ash, content with distributing the ball to teammates throughout the season at the expense of her own scoring numbers, claimed a bit of that old form with 18 points to lead both sides.
Colleen Maloney finished with 11 points, six of them free throws, while Lauren Pluchino, stepped up with 10 points to help out Sharon Dennis, who had eight points. Nicole Monroe (16 points) and Alyssa Sutherland (14 points) led WG’s push.
This led the Warriors into Saturday’s AA semifinals at Cicero-North Syracuse against no. 3 seed Fayetteville-Manlius.
For the second time in as many months, Liverpool would beat the Hornets, leaning on its defense to take out F-M 52-41.
When they first met Jan. 19, the Hornets were without leading scorer Torie Lee, out with a foot injury. They caught another break for the rematch when F-M’s lone senior starter, Kelly Radigan, injured her knee in the Hornets’ quarterfinal win over Watertown and was out here.
All game long, Liverpool did a superb job denying F-M chances to shoot from the perimeter, holding it to just one 3-point field goal for the afternoon.
Still, the Hornets were persistent. Twice, Liverpool built double-digit leads. Both times, F-M came back, pulling within five, 36-31, early in the fourth quarter as it saddled Dennis with foul trouble.
As a whole, Liverpool came through with a 12-4 run that settled matters. Maloney led the way again, earning 16 points, while Pluchino continued to impress with 11 points and Ashleigh Bowers stepped up for 10 points. Ash (eight points) and Dennis (seven points) also helped, too.
“All year we’ve been able to get a lot of contributions from a lot of people,” said Olley. “That makes us tough to defend.”
Oswego will try to do so, anyway, led by forwards Cari Reed, Corrin Conroy and Nikki Carroll. Their dominance in the paint has led the Bucs to a 21-1 mark, its only loss coming to Utica Proctor in December.
Still, Oswego is vulnerable to hot shooting, as it barely escaped in the AA semifinals against a Cicero-North Syracuse team that hit 12 3-pointers to make it interesting. It might take a similar hot streak by Maloney, Dennis, Ash, Seymour, Bowers and their teammates to bring Liverpool its first championship since 1996.