Someone familiar and someone new has the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team carrying grand expectations once more.
Senior Amani Free and freshman Jessica Cook teamed up to do most of the damage for the Northstars as it pushed past defending Section III Class AA champion West Genesee 58-53 in Friday night’s Salt City Athletic Conference Metro division opener.
Free, the Quinnipiac University-bound guard, finished with a career-best total of 32 points. Cook, a 6-foot-2 forward, announced her presence by pouring in 23 points, and all of their production was needed to withstand West Genesee’s numerous comeback attempts.
When C-NS’s eight-year reign as sectional champions ended a season ago, it was the Wildcats who took over at the top, led by the sister tandem of Madison and Mackenzie Smith.
But that was before Free returned from her year spent at Long Island Lutheran, and WG got a close-up look at just how much Free had grown as a player and competitor, and that trying to concentrate on her only opened things up for Cook in the paint.
Never trailing, C-NS began its first getaway when Free hit a long 3-pointer before the first-quarter horn. When WG chased her, Cook got open for five straight points as part of a 9-0 run that formed most of the basis for a 28-19 halftime lead.
Yet the Wildcats kept fighting back, whittling an 11-point deficit down to two, 38-36, late in the third quarter C-NS restored the margin with the combination of Free hitting outside shots late int he shot clock and Cook fighting her way open for lay-ups.
Again, WG tried to catch up, cutting C-NS’s 48-38 lead down to three, 56-53, with a minute left as Madison Smith worked her total to 19 points, Mackenzie Smith had 15 points and Mya Case got 10 points.
Not until Free hit two more free throws with 16.7 seconds left could the Northstars put the game away, knowing it will have a rematch with the Wildcats Jan. 16 in Camillus. Last Tuesday’s snowed-out game with CBA will get made up late in January.
And next Friday night, it’s C-NS (2-0) against Liverpool, who moved to 4-0 o the season Friday when it went to Nottingham for its SCAC Metro opener and held off the Bulldogs 52-45.
Much like the C-NS-West Genesee game, the Warriors led most of the way, yet found it difficult to get any space between itself and Nottingham, clinging to a 27-22 lead at halftime.
Then Liverpool outscored the Bulldogs 18-12 in the third quarter, earning a cushion as Jenna Wike worked her way to 21 points, including three 3-pointers.
Kyra Grimshaw finished with 12 points, while Amanda Barnell got nine points. For the Bulldogs, Chyna Butler led with 17 points, while Amiyah Williams got 10 points.