CATO — Following an uneven month offensively, Weedsport boys basketball is hoping its latest showing will be the boost it needs heading into sectionals.
Guided by a strong performance from their frontcourt, the Warriors rolled to an 82-59 win over Cato-Meridian, at Cato-Meridian High School, Monday.
Weedsport is now 17-1 on the season and can clinch a perfect 12-0 record in league play with a victory against Port Byron Friday.
While the Warriors led the entire way, Cato-Meridian did have some runs that kept the score within a few possessions. At one point in the third quarter, the Blue Devils were only down by five.
When in doubt, feed the big fellas. Weedsport just did that, with Joel Blumer keying a 10-2 run from the end of the third quarter to the start of the fourth to give the Warriors the cushion they needed.
"We have installed some new sets over the last month to get more touches to our post guys," Weedsport coach Jon Sgarlata said. "We've always been a guard-oriented offense, but we have so many big guys that are skilled around the basket that if they catch it they can make plays with it. Sometimes our best offense is just rebounding and putting them back in. We had a bunch of those tonight with Joel."
Blumer and Jake Brown tied for Weedsport's team lead in scoring with 20 each. The Warriors also received a 16-point night from Josh O'Connor and 15 points from Max Powers.
Sixteen of Blumer's 20 came in the second half, while Brown was the Warriors' top scorer at halftime with 13.
Trevor Lunkenheimer recorded 15 points to pace Cato-Meridian, while Konar Witkowski had 13 and Austin Vincent added 12.
It was a frustrating night for the Blue Devils overall. Cato-Meridian was in striking distance for a good chunk of the game, but each time the Blue Devils threatened to take over the lead, Weedsport seemingly answered with a big shot.
"Definitely frustrating. It's a rival game, so we knew both teams were going to be up for it and it'd be a hard, physical game," Cato-Meridian coach Mike Vargason said. "You can't take any plays off. You've got to get back on defense. That one dagger always seems to jab you."
Clearly, a tale of two teams; though Weedsport hasn't lost since Dec. 14, shooting of late has been off the mark. The Warriors still did most of their damage under the rim against Cato-Meridian, but Sgarlata saw enough to be encouraged moving forward.
"We've been in a little bit of a lull," Sgarlata said. "We've really struggled to shoot the ball the last three or four weeks. We've been working on that and we shot the ball better tonight than we have in a long time. Hopefully that's a good sign for sectionals."
Weedsport has two more regular season games — Friday at rival Port Byron followed by a make-up game Monday, Feb. 11 against Blessed Virgin Mary — before finding out its place in the Section III, Class C bracket. Weedsport, Utica Academy of Science (16-1), and Cooperstown (16-2) are all strong options for the No. 1 seed.
Following a handful of years of postseason disappointment, this new crop of Warriors hope to right some wrongs.
"Even though a lot of these guys are new to varsity, they've talked about unfinished business," Sgarlata said. "We've been on the doorstep these last three years and haven't been able to win that sectional title. It was their goal from the beginning of the year, which is rare for a JV team coming to varsity, but they had very high expectations. Hopefully we can peak in sectionals and get it done."
Cato-Meridian (9-8) already has a sectional spot clinched, and with three games left will try to recover from a tough night against a Cayuga County rival. Next up is Pulaski on Wednesday.
"We'll come to work tomorrow at practice, and we're going on the road to Pulaski," Vargason said. "It's never easy to play on the road at Pulaski no matter the talent level. We've got to come to play and hopefully we can rebound from this."