A Long Afternoon
pblackwell, Sat, March 14th, 2009
Whether it was in Liverpool, Troy or Cortland, it didn't seem to matter. Section III's five girls basketball champions in pursuit of a berth in the state final four all met with the same sad fate in various regional finals.
When Cicero-North Syracuse, in Class AA, met up wtih Bethlehem at Liverpool's gym, the main storyline centered around Breanna Stewart, and how the 6-3 freshman would cope within the Eagles' zone defense.
Stewart, working hard as always, put in 18 points. And her effort helped the Northstars overcome a 10-point deficit and even go in front midway through the third quarter.
Bethlehem regained the lead, though, then withstood one more CNS run in the final period by making 10 of 12 free throws. By a 50-40 margin, the Eagles will get to play close to home for the state final four. Stewart has three more years around here to make her mark and take CNS further.
Out at Hudson Valley Community College, Mexico was hoping that this was the first of two weekend visits in the Class A regional final after a win over Massena earlier this week.
But Mohonasen had other ideas. The Section II champs steadily worked to a 24-16 halftime edge and never let the Tigers make any kind of sustained run. Pulling away at the end, Mohonasen won 50-32, ending Mexico's best-ever campaign as a senior-heavy roster will have to undergo some transition next winter.
Like Mexico, Cazenovia had a first-ever sectional title under its belt as it went to Liverpool to take the measure of undefeated, state no. 1-ranked Oneonta in the Class B regional final.
All looked great for a half, as the Lakers roared out in front 21-12 as Ellen Burr (13 points) outscored the Yellowjackets by herself.
Somehow, Oneonta rallied behind Madie Harlem, who carried her team in a manner rarely seen anywhere. She had 30 of the Yellowjackets' 36 points, leading her team on a big-time comeback as Oneonta's defense bottled up Kiley Evans (two points) in a way no one else had this season.
Despite all this, the Lakers still had a chance to force overtime. Down 36-33 as the final seconds ticked down, Lindsey Smith, Kassie Kleine and finally Evans all took tying 3-point shots. All went off target.
Oneonta had survived, and maybe more than the other teams today, Laker partisans have to wonder what might have been had they reached Troy. Instead, Evans, Smith and Kleine graduate, having taking their Caz program to previously unattained heights.
With Bishop Grimes, the issue in the Class C regional at SUNY-Cortland was not the way it started against Section IV champ Greene, but how it finished.
Grimes led Greene after one period. From that point forward, though, it was all a massive struggle for the Cobras' offense, who made just one 3-pointer all afternoon and, other than Amanda Marcely (15 points), was too quiet.
Greene found a way to shut down Grimes with just 12 second-half points, leading to a 41-31 defeat. This just might be a warm-up for Grimes, since just two seniors (Brooke Bonacci and Tenley Pitonzo) depart.
In Class D, also at SUNY-Cortland, Sackets Harbor could not make it back-to-back state final four appearances, battling hard in a 46-42 loss to South Kortright, who also won the regional title on the boys side.
It has to be a letdown for Section III not to see anyone going to Troy after Corcoran, Cooperstown and Sackets all made it a year ago. Then again, with Stewart and so much young talent around, that reality has a good chance of changing 12 months from now.