Mar 18, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Through much of Friday morning’s state Class B semifinal at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, the Cazenovia girls basketball team proved better than Irvington.
But the Lakers could not overcome a frightening start that left the Section I champion Bulldogs far out in front, and Irvington held on to prevail 58-51, spoiling Cazenovia’s first-ever trip to the state final four.
All the way to Troy, the Lakers had proven its toughness multiple times, from the rallies against Jordan-Elbridge and Utica-Notre Dame to win the Section III championship to its dramatic 62-58 overtime victory over Oneonta to claim the regional title on March 12.
Yet Irvington provided the season’s biggest challenge. The Bulldogs were the defending state and Federation Class B champions, with all kinds of experience on the season’s biggest stage in Troy.
And that experience was evident in the game’s opening stages. Before Cazenovia could even get comfortable, Irvington had hit its first four shots and zoomed to an 8-0 lead, forcing head coach Steve Miles to use a time-out just 2:03 into the contest.
The Lakers finally did get on the board, but only converted three of 14 field goals in the first quarter as, by the end of it, Cazenovia was down 20-8. By herself, Irvington’s Brittni Lai had eight points, matching the Lakers’ total.
Then it got worse as, early in the second period, Ashley Stec went to the bench with her third foul. Lai continued to light up the Lakers, hitting 13 points by the middle of the period as the margin grew to 21.
Somehow, Cazenovia fought back and, led by Ellen Burr and Raeanne Clabeaux, started hitting shots all over the place to cut the deficit in half. Thanks to this, the Lakers were only down 36-24 at halftime, and happy to still have a chance.
With plenty of time to catch up, Cazenovia returned Stec to the court in the third quarter, trying to find some way to stop Lai, who had 15 points, and Lexi Martins, who had put up 13 points in the first two periods.
Cazenovia’s comeback continued into the third period, where it took full advantage of a Bulldogs dry spell and cut the margin to 36-30, forcing Irvington to a time-out. From there, it hung close the rest of the period, and was down 44-36 with one quarter left.
Now the Lakers’ defense had settled in, causing the Bulldogs to miss its first six shots in the fourth quarter. Yet Cazenovia was just as cold, only pulling as close as six points (44-38 on a Clabeaux jumper) as it missed 11 of its first 13 shots in that last period.
Irvington restored the margin to double digits, 53-42, in the game’s final two minutes thanks to two more baskets from Martins, which allowed them to withstand one more Cazenovia comeback as the clock ran out.
Burr led with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while Clabeaux chimed in with 14 points. Maggie Carpenter came off the bench to put up eight points as Stec, in her limited minutes, got seven points. Lai ended up with 25 points as Martins notched 19 points before fouling out.
Irvington went on Saturday to crush Rochester Aquinas 91-52 to repeat as state champions. Given that, Cazenovia may have felt better, given the opponent it lost to, or worse, given how close it came to beating those formidable Bulldogs.
And so the Lakers’ most successful season concluded at 21-2. So did the high school careers of four highly accomplished seniors – Stec, Burr, Clabeaux and Taylor Malmsheimer. Each had played starring roles in Cazenovia’s ascent to the top.
Of course, Stec will continue her basketball career at Manhattan College, and her departure, along with that of Burr, Clabeaux and Malmsheimer, leaves a tall task for the likes of Colleen Dougherty and Maggie Carpenter as Cazenovia will try to defend its crowns next winter.
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