Up until the last minutes of the last game of the regular season, the Baldwinsville boys basketball team was not sure if its work would continue into at least one more game.
But just when it was absolutely required, the Bees gave an inspired effort last Monday night and knocked off West Genesee 76-67, earning a berth in the Section III Class AA playoffs.
Back-to-back defeats on the road to Liverpool and Fayetteville-Manlius on Feb. 9-10 took away B’ville’s margin of error. At 7-12, the Bees had to beat a West Genesee side it lost to by a 79-65 margin in Camillus less than three weeks earlier.
And thing seemed bleak when, buoyed by a strong second quarter, the Wildcats took a 36-28 halftime lead. But a combination of urgency and desperation fed B’ville as it outscored the Wildcats 27-14 in the third quarter to go in front for good.
Casey Pluff, with four 3-pointers, led the Bees with 19 points as Jake Marshall got 17 points, with J.J. Starling and Alec Williams earning 12 points apiece, each of them connecting twice beyond the arc.
WG could not answer that surge, though Will Amica finished with 18 points and Lucas Sutherland had 16 points. Kam Jones got 11 points, just ahead of Christian Rossi (nine points) and Jack McLane (eight points).
The reward for B’ville was a no. 12 sectional playoff seed and the same challenge it could not quite pass a season ago – namely, winning an opening –round game at Henninger on Friday night.
Perhaps weary from the all-out effort it took just to reach the sectional tournament, the Bees lost, 96-81, to the no. 5 seed Black Knights, who advanced to face Bishop Ludden in the quarterfinals.
In reality, B’ville played Henninger on even terms throughout the last three quarters, but paid for a rough start where it could not keep the Black Knights from bolting in front 25-11 by the end of the first period.
Trading baskets most of the way, the Bees saw Starling pick up 26 points and Marshall add 20 points as Cam Weatherly got 10 points, just ahead of Greg Casey, who had nine points, and Maxwell Dec, who had eight points.
Henninger had five players score in double figures, ably spreading its production around. Jadan Graves led with 21 points, but Travis Gray (18 points) and Jonah Alston (16 points) were close behind as Qualeek Keith had a season-best 15 points and Quincy Ballard earned 10 points.
While all this was going on, B’ville’s girls basketball team was recuperating from a rough finish to its regular season.
The Bees had gone to West Genesee last Monday and dropped its fourth consecutive game against the defending sectional champion Wildcats in a 55-43 decision.
Though it was a bit closer than the first meeting on Jan. 26 that B’ville lost 54-35, it was only because the Bees rose up in the second half and finally started to play well on both ends.
Before that, though, WG smothered B’ville on the defensive side and rode hot outside shooting to a 20-7 lead through one quarter and a 37-16 margin by halftime.
Mostly, the Wildcats damaged the Bees with hot outside shooting. Mya Case hit five 3-pointers on her way to 17 points as Madison Smith’s entire total of 12 points came from four 3-pointers. Catie Cunningham (11 points) and Mackenzie Smith (seven points) helped out.
On B’ville’s side, 10 different players contributed at least one field goal, but only Jordan Roy, with 11 points, got to double figures and no one else had more than Alena Criss, who put up eight points.
Nine teams qualified for the Class AA sectional tournament, and B’ville, as the no. 6 seed, would face no. 3seed Central Square in Tuesday night’s quarterfinals. Win that and the Bees could meet WG again in the semifinals as the no. 2 seed Wildcats would face no. 7 seed Rome Free Academy.