MORAVIA — Screams could be heard outside the Blue Devils’ locker room after the game.
These screams weren’t because of the thrill or a win or fear of the repercussions of a loss.
No, Moravia girls basketball was just excited because its effort in a win over Southern Cayuga prompted coach John Crossgrove to cancel Saturday practice.
“It goes to show how rare that is that they were that excited,” Crossgrove said, “but they earned it.”
The Blue Devils topped the Chiefs 63-41 Friday at Moravia High School in an early season matchup between the two Cayuga County rivals. Moravia, which trailed early in the first quarter, outscored Southern Cayuga 43-24 over the final three quarters.
Grace Wasileski was the Blue Devils’ leading scorer, posting 21 points while going 8-for-9 from the charity stripe. Kate Baylor had a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Maddy Kelly added 10 points and five boards.
Lauren Sherman finished with 19 points for the Chiefs, while Catie Kopp scored 13 points with 12 rebounds and four assists, and Brooke Walter added eight points and seven boards.
It was an uncharacteristically bad shooting night for Southern Cayuga, converting at only 22 percent from the field and 52 percent from the free throw line.
“We had open looks throughout the game, but tonight was just not our night,” Chiefs coach Ed Heslop said. “They’re a good defense and they’re on us so our shots are maybe a little bit harder than we’ve had. When you’re trying to rush a little bit because of the defense you miss ones that we normally make. We’ll work on correcting that.”
The opening quarter indicated that a much higher-scoring game was in store. The Chiefs roared out to lead early following five early points from Kopp, but the Blue Devils countered and took their first lead on a 3-pointer from Wasileski with two minutes remaining in the frame. By the end of the first, Moravia was ahead 20-17 and neither team had used a timeout.
“It was a little reminiscent of (Southern Cayuga’s) last appearance here,” Crossgrove said. “They weren’t missing much — last year they spent the whole game not missing much. Not much you can do about that, but we tightened up … made some shots of our own. It was fun, both teams playing good team basketball on offense.”
After that, Moravia methodically sustained its offense while Southern Cayuga struggled to fill the basket as each shot seemingly trickled on the rim before bouncing away. The Chiefs’ cold spell allowed the Blue Devils to pull away and by the end of the third quarter Moravia was up by 15. That lead increased to more than 20 in the fourth quarter as the Blue Devils closed out the win.
This year, Moravia returns a nice blend of veteran experience and young talent and has a chance to contend for a section title once again. The Blue Devils have bowed out in the section semifinals two straight years and the year before that lost in the section final.
“They’re fighters,” Crossgrove said. “We’re really working hard at trying to be good teammates. The older girls have played together a lot, the next level has played together a decent amount and the younger level has played together a lot. You’ve got to bring that all together. We’ve got our egos too and we’re setting that aside to try to be the best team that we can be. We’ve got a long ways to go but we’re heading down the right road right now.”
Southern Cayuga, another veteran team, made it as far as the section final last year. A different challenge is ahead this season though, as the Chiefs were bumped up from Class D to Class C and enter a whole new battlefield, including Moravia.
“We’ve got some important players back and the team is melding,” Heslop said. “We’ve got a lot of new players in the mix so we’re working on melding everyone together. We are a C level school instead of a D, so that’s going to make a difference. There’s a lot of really good team — we just saw one and we had Odessa-Montour the other night. We’ll see, but we’ve got to get better between now and then, but the girls are working hard.”
Moravia returns to the court Tuesday at home against Trumansburg, while Southern Cayuga is also home that day against Marathon.
As for Crossgrove, his plans won’t change much while his team enjoys a well-deserved day off.
“Probably going to the JV practice,” he said.