: Liverpool guard Jenna Wike (11) takes her shot over a contingent of West Genesee defenders in last Saturday’s Section III Class AA final at Onondaga Community College’s Allyn Hall. Despite Wike’s game-high 16 points, the Warriors lost, 52-43, to the Wildcats.
For a long portion of last Saturday’s Section III Class AA championship game at Onondaga Community College’s Allyn Hall, the Liverpool girls basketball team outplayed and outscored top seed West Genesee in its quest to end a decade-long title drought.
If only it did as well at the start and finish.
It was that opening stretch that ultimately proved too much for the Warriors to overcome as the Wildcats, by a 52-43 margin, ended its own long wait and earned its first sectional championship since 1994.
Though WG carried an 18-game win streak into the sectional final, Liverpool gained encouragement from its two regular-season meetings with the Wildcats on Jan. 24 and Feb. 7, staying close and competitive in a manner other WG foes had failed to match.
Now, Ffesh off wins over no. 3 seed Fayetteville-Manlius and no. 2 seed Central Square in the sectional tournament, Liverpool went for the trifecta of toppling the no. 1 seed, but the Wildcats would not let that happen.
And the way the game started had much to do with the ultimate outcome. From a swarming defense to crisp execution on the offensive end, WG bolted out to a 17-3 lead in the game’s first six-plus minutes. The Wildcats’ sister tandem of Mackenzie and Madison Smith led that charge, scoring 11 of those 17 points.
Gradually, Liverpool started to fight back. Still trailing by double digits for most of the second quarter, the Warriors were energized when reserve Bella Barner hit a pair of 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 27-19 by halftime.
It got more interesting after the break. Jenna Wike’s 10 points in the third quarter pushed Liverpool even closer, and it got within three, 33-30, late in the period. But then the Wildcats’ Camryn Chawgo delivered on back-to-back baskets, one of them a 3-pointer, to restore the lead to eight, 38-30, and the Warriors would never get as close again.
As a whole, WG’s defense played at its best early in the fourth quarter, holding Liverpool without a point for more than three minutes. Chawgo, who with fellow senior Elle Lazore was a defensive force throughout the game, put it away with a lay-up and free throw with 1:08 to play that made it 50-38.
Chawgo finished with 12 points, matching Madison Smith as Mackenzie Smith added 11 points and Lazore got seven points. Wike led all scorers with 16 points, but Kyra Grimshaw, mired in foul trouble, was held to five points, matching Bri Socker as Barner finished with eight points.
Socker was one of just three seniors on the team, along with Precious Sneed and Alex Silvia. This means that Wike, Grimshaw, Barner, Holly Sleeth and Amanda Barnell lead a strong returning contingent in 2017-18 as the Warriors, so close to the title each of the last two years, will have a great chance to win it all next winter.