Mar 01, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
At least from the standpoint of Section III Class AA championships, the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team’s “Drive for Five” was an unqualified success.
The Northstars’ fifth sectional crown in a row was attained Thursday night in the Carrier Dome as it withstood a strong early effort from Corcoran and took charge in the second half to beat the Cougars 60-31.
Given that this was the first sectional title earned after Breanna Stewart’s departure for Connecticut, head coach Eric Smith said he was happiest for those players who, perhaps, were overshadowed by Stewart in seasons past.
“It means more for the kids that were around the last couple of years,” said Smith. “Now they had a chance to show how good they were.”
One of those girls, senior and tournament MVP Sarah Bowles, did not qualify or place any difference between this year’s champions and those of the previous four seasons.
“Every title is amazing,” said Bowles.
Not only did the Northstars have the confidence and experience gathered from four consecutive sectional title runs, it had pushed Corcoran around 63-28 in the Feb. 12 regular-season finale.
In order to turn that lopsided result around, the Cougars had to get a mix of strong inside play with the same sort of hot outside shooting Mary Morgan had displayed when she scored 29 points (including eight 3-pointers) in a 64-61 Class AA semifinal win over CBA.
For a half, Corcoran got what it wanted. Morgan landed the game’s first basket with another of those 3-pointers, and the Cougars didn’t blink when C-NS put together a quick 7-0 run and tried to get control.
Instead, Corcoran fought back to tie it, 9-9, before Abbey Timpano struck for back-to-back 3-pointers late in the period, and C-NS took a 15-9 edge to the second quarter.
Again, the Cougars had an answer, briefly grabbing a 21-20 lead late in the half on a 3-pointer from Shauntesha Bryant, but the Northstars got the last five points before the horn, and was up 25-21 at the break, mainly thanks to Bowles and Timpano, who had 10 points apiece.
Then the second half started, and the Northstars side that had, once again, bowled over the entire local Class AA opposition throughout the winter showed up in full force to thwart Corcoran’s challenge.
Smith said his team’s first-half inconsistency was his own fault because he had altered too much of the team’s approach in the week leading up to the game, and that a return to what worked for so long was required.
“I tried to change things too much,” he said. “So I told them to forget those changes and get back to the way we play.”
Defensively, that meant a switch to full-court pressure, which threw the Cougars completely out of its rhythm and caused a rash of turnovers. Morgan would not make a 3-pointer the entire second half as Bowles, Timpano and Hannah Nichols took turns shutting her down.
“We wanted to get in their faces, speed things up and tire them out,” said Bowles.
The pressure worked – and the baskets followed, C-NS outscoring the Cougars 19-6 in the third period to pull clear as Timpano and Bowles added six more points apiece and Samantha Roberts contributed a big 3-pointer just before the period ended.
It only got more lopsided in the fourth quarter as the Northstars’ depth and energy level never sagged, even with the game well in hand. Timpano led with 19 points, with Bowles right behind as she finished with 17 points. Shauntesha Bryant, with 13 points, accounted for nearly half of Corcoran’s production.
C-NS will face the Section II champion (Bethlehem or Albany) next Saturday at noon in the AA regional final at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena, needing a win there to return to Troy’s Hudson Valley Community College on March 15-16 for a shot at a third consecutive state championship.