Mar 12, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
According to Cazenovia girls basketball head coach Steve Miles, a simple, yet lofty goal has driven the players through this magical season.
“They wanted to be the best team in Cazenovia history,” said head coach Steve Miles.
And now it’s official – the Lakers are on that pedestal. Thanks to Saturday’s pulsating 62-58 overtime victory over Section IV champion Oneonta in the Class B regional finals at Liverpool High School, Cazenovia is on its way to its first-ever state final four.
“It’s amazing,” said senior forward Ashley Stec. “We just want to keep going and do what we’ve never done before.”
Stec had much to do with this breakthrough. Silent on the offensive side for much of the Lakers’ run to the Section III Class B title, the Manhattan College-bound senior poured in 23 points, most of them in a first-quarter barrage that appeared to send Cazenovia on its way.
By herself, Stec, with 13 points in that opening period, (including a trio of 3-pointers), outscored the Yellowjackets, who managed just nine as a team. “Our team was ready, and we were intense,” she said.
Yet Oneonta, who beat Cazenovia in this same regional round two years ago, would climb back within four, 32-28, by halftime, pushed there by freshman Mariah Ruff, who had 11 points in the second period. Through a back-and-forth third quarter, the Lakers doubled the margin to eight, only to see the Yellowjackets get back to 42-38 by the time the final period started.
Both defenses took over in the late stages, especially that of Oneonta’s, as Cazenovia could not get the ball inside to Stec, Ellen Burr (who finished with 18 points) or Raeanne Clabeaux, settling for jump shots that went off the mark. The Lakers did not get a single field goal in those last eight minutes.
But with Colleen Dougherty anchoring another superb Cazenovia defensive effort, the Yellowjackets still trailed, 47-45, until Ruff flashed open on a cut to the basket and hit a lay-up with 7.1 seconds to tie it, 47-47. Burr got the last shot in regulation, but it got blocked, and the game went to overtime.
Miles said that, in his pep talk to the players prior to the OT, that he emphasized the fact that “it’s all new at this point”, and that they had to stay composed. Perhaps he also told the Lakers to go back inside and find more high-percentage shots.
Indeed, in its first three OT possessions Clabeaux, Burr and Stec all converted on inside baskets. And with the score 53-49, with the Yellowjackets expecting another drive to the basket, Clabeaux (who had five of her 11 points in the extra period) instead drained a 3-pointer to make it 56-49.
Still, Oneonta wouldn’t quit, eating away at the margin until the final minute of OT – where Taylor Malmsheimer put it away. The senior point guard had sprained her ankle earlier in the game, but stayed out there.
“Taylor is a kid you won’t keep off the floor,” said Miles.
And when she was fouled four times in the last 55 seconds, Malmsheimer, with eight free-throw attempts, made six of them, including the clincher with 9.8 seconds to play.
Now the Lakers enter a new world, starting Friday morning at 10 a.m. when it plays Section I champion and state no. 1-ranked Irvington in the state Class B semifinals at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. The winner advances to Saturday’s 4 p.m. championship game against Hoosic Valley (Section II) or Rochester Aquinas (Section V).