Having seen a glorious season slowed up in recent weeks, the Skaneateles boys basketball team still found itself in a prime position entering the Section III Class B playoffs.
The Lakers’ 17-3 mark meant that it would hold the no. 2 seed, which put them on the other side of the bracket from top seed Lowville and two-time defending champion Westhill, who had the no. 4 seed.
More importantly, the rested Lakers would, in last Saturday’s round-of-16 game, meet an Adirondack side that, two nights earlier, had to go to the wire to edge Oneida 46-45 in one of the four play-in games in the 20-team bracket.
Whether it was that tiny bit of extra rest, or just its overall quality, Skaneateles was primed to start its post-season push, as the visiting Wildcats found out in a big way, the Lakers rolling to an 88-53 victory.
Setting a new season mark for points, Skaneateles was red-hot from the outset, and while Adirondack kept up for a brief while, it turned into a blowout when the Lakers outscored the Wildcats 28-7 in a decisive second quarter.
And the margin kept growing thanks to Skaneateles hitting 10 3-pointers, five of them by Nate Fouts, who led with 25 points as Jack Canty connected twice beyond the arc on his way to 22 points.
Tommy Reed finished with 12 points, while Keif Timmins had eight points and Jack Whirtley had six points. For the Wildcats, Landon Miller led with 17 points as Nate Allen added 13 points.
The biggest concern Skaneateles carried into the sectional tournament was just how it was going to reclaim the magic that produced 15 consecutive victories before a 2-3 finish to the regular season.
Those late struggles culminated with a 62-35 defeat to Class A contender Central Square last Monday night. Granted, the Lakers caught the Redhawks at a bad time following a Feb. 8 loss to Jamesville-DeWitt that cost it a chance at a league title.
Still, Skaneateles was in trouble from the outset as Central Square jumped on them 22-8 in the first quarter and eventually built a 53-23 margin through three periods.
Reed had nine points, with Fouts adding eight points and Canty getting seven points. Tim Giblin led Central Square with 14 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
All of these concerns for the Lakers subsided, at least for one playoff round, but to keep it up Skaneateles will have to topple no. 10 seed Jordan-Elbridge in Wednesday night’s sectional quarterfinal, which tips off at 6 p.m.
Twice in as many weeks in January, the Lakers beat the Eagles, but both were close, 52-51 and 57-50 decisions. And the Eagles won its playoff opener 53-51 over Solvay on a last-second basket by Myles Town after it lost to the Bearcats twice in the regular season.
Thus, Skaneateles will have to accomplish what Solvay did not – the trick of beating a quality opponent three times, with the stakes a berth in Saturday’s sectional semifinal at SRC Arena against General Brown or Sherburne-Earlville.