SYRACUSE Dan Hallinan said that his first season at the helm of the West Genesee girls basketball team would be a success with one playoff win.
Well, the Wildcats now own two playoff wins - and as a result, it will go to the Carrier Dome and have a shot at toppling a superpower with the Section III Class AA championship on the line.
Avenging a defeat late in the regular season, the no. 3 seed Wildcats used a strong second-half push on both ends of the floor to beat no. 2 seed Fayetteville-Manlius 52-46 in Tuesday night's AA semifinal at Onondaga Community College's SRC Arena.
These two sides had first met Jan. 31 in Camillus, a game where WG lost, 49-41, partially because it could not take full advantage of the foul trouble of F-M's 6-foot senior center, Kiley Shoemaker.
Three and a half weeks later, the rematch proved even closer. After trailing through most of the first quarter, the Wildcats seized a 19-15 lead midway through the second period as Vicki Graveline, with nine points, and Melissa Fumano, with six points, set the early pace.
F-M, led by Shoemaker's nine points, charged in front 20-19 by halftime, and in the third quarter the margin grew to 31-26, the Wildcats on the brink of seeing the Hornets get past them again.
But after Alexis Rios hit a 3-pointer with 3:13 left in that period, WG would not allow another Hornet field goal for the next nine-plus minutes, during which time it went on a decisive 18-2 run that stretched deep into the fourth quarter.
On the defensive side, the Wildcats' pair of senior guards, Emily Tripodi and Kara Datellas, joined with sophomore Marissa Hudgins as they locked down on Rios, Charlotte Beers and Lauren Getman, wearing them down with pressure and forcing a series of turnovers and bad shots.