AUBURN — As the Chiefs inched closer and closer, the Warriors called a timeout to regroup.
It proved a wise decision — the Weedsport girls basketball team outscored Southern Cayuga 9-2 over the final two minutes to pick up a 70-61 win in the opening round of the Cayuga County Holiday Tournament Wednesday at Cayuga Community College. The win pushes the Warriors to the county championship where they'll go for their fourth title in a row and seventh since 2010.
Both teams provided balanced scoring, with Weedsport's Cassi Carroll producing a game-high 25 points. The Warriors' Brooke Hammersley added 16 points, Sydney Gilfus added 14 and Suzie Nemec notched 10.
Carroll did most of her damage coming out of halftime — the junior converted five field goals and two free throws for a total of 12 points during the third quarter.
Catie Kopp paced Southern Cayuga with 16 points, while Brooke Walter scored 13, Aimee Kreydatus nabbed 12 and Lauren Sherman contributed 11.
The contest was typical of a meeting between Weedsport and Southern Cayuga — the winner of the county tournament has been one of the two schools every year since 2004.
"It's always a battle with Southern Cayuga," Weedsport coach Chris Vargason said. "It's just two teams going up and down, back and forth. We got hot early then they got hot ... it was just back and forth. It was a good high school basketball game."
Weedsport started out the game strongly, jumping out to a 19-9 lead after nine minutes. The Chiefs never let the game get too far out of reach, however. Southern Cayuga stayed within 10, 32-22, at halftime and were down by 12 entering the final quarter.
Point after point the Chiefs clawed their way back in it and Sherman's 3-pointer with 2:33 remaining cut Weedsport's lead to 61-59. That shot forced a Warriors timeout.
"I told them to take care of the basketball and if we took care of the basketball we'd be standing at the free-throw line," Vargason said. "(The Chiefs) were into the bonus at the time, and they took care of the ball and made some free throws down the stretch."
Southern Cayuga was held to one basket the rest of the way. Weedsport worked its way to the free-throw line as Nemec went 3-for-4 down the stretch while Hammersley knocked down both of her tries in the final minute.
Now Weedsport looks to continue its county dominance as it faces Port Byron in the championship. The Warriors and Panthers met on Dec. 7 with Weedsport coming out on top 62-40.
"We've got to be ready to play Port Byron," Vargason said. "We got away from them at the end over there but it was a game the whole game until the very end. We've got to come to play tomorrow."