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Carthage boys win 16th straight game; Comet girls also win

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CARTHAGE — There has never been a Carthage basketball team — boys or girls — to win a Section 3 championship.

But each program got one step closer with a Class A quarterfinal victory on Tuesday night at Carthage High School.

The top-seeded Carthage boys team built an early lead and hit its free throws down the stretch to hold off No. 8 Oneida for a 69-54 victory.

The girls team, seeded third, used an 18-2 run to start the second half and cruised to a 61-49 victory over No. 6 East Syracuse-Minoa.

BOYS GAME

Walter Jeter led the Comets to their 16th straight victory by matching his season high with 20 points to go with 15 rebounds, and Peyton McLaurin went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.

McLaurin has made 28 consecutive foul shots.

Carthage (18-1) will play No. 4 New Hartford in the semifinals at either 4 or 6 p.m. Sunday at Onondaga Community College. New Hartford advanced with a 76-34 victory over No. 5 Whitesboro on Tuesday.

“That’s the main objective — a sectional title. That’s the goal right now,” said Jeter, who shot 7-for-11 from the field.

Carthage has advanced to the sectional final twice in program history, according to Carthage coach Jeff Ventiquattro.

The Comets went 4-13 last year and did not qualify for the sectional playoffs.

“This is a special team,” Ventiquattro said. “We just got to take the moment in and understand that special teams come around once in a while, and you really got to just enjoy it.”

The Comets came out firing, hitting four of their six 3-point field-goal attempts in the first quarter, and 6-of-12 in the first half overall to build a 33-23 lead.

Oneida hung around, and senior Kyle Peck hit a 3-pointer with time winding down in the third quarter to cut the Carthage lead to 46-42 headed into the fourth.

Then, McLaurin took over.

The 6-foot-3 sophomore point guard scored 15 of his 21 points in the fourth, including 10 from the free-throw line to seal the victory.

“We need to start off faster. We’re the No. 1 (seed) and we should be playing at a much higher pace than we are right now,” McLaurin said.

Andrew Smith scored 17 points, including five 3-pointers, for Carthage.

“I thought it was a gutty win. We didn’t play our best, but when you don’t play your best and you win, it’s a good win,” Ventiquattro said.

Peck led Oneida (11-9) with 22 points, 20 coming in the second half.

“We couldn’t quite get that big hoop when we needed it,” Oneida coach Jeff Didio said.

GIRLS GAME

Zakiya Saunders finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds, five steals and five assists, and was at the front of a full-court press that sparked the big run to start the second half.

Lexi Smith and Kendra Bates added 17 points apiece for Carthage (13-6), which will play in the sectional semifinal for the fourth straight year. The team has yet to advance past the semifinals.

It will play second-seeded Whitesboro, which advanced with a 67-38 victory over No. 7 Cortland on Tuesday, at either 6 or 8 p.m. Friday at Onondaga Community College.

“We’re one step closer now, but still a lot of work to do,” Carthage coach Randi Smith said.

The Spartans were down just 22-19 midway through the second quarter when their leading scorer, senior post player Gabrielle Eure, went to the bench with her second foul. She had scored 14 of the team’s 19 points before picking up the foul.

Eure sat the rest of the half as the Comets built an eight-point lead at halftime.

Carthage packed in its 2-3 zone defense to start the second half to limit Eure, and Saunders caused havoc for the Spartans at the front of a full-court press. By the time the third quarter ended, Carthage led 49-27.

“Our last game, we kind of came out slow in the third quarter so we wanted to change that as a team,” said Saunders, who topped the 20-point mark for the ninth time this season. “If we didn’t, anything can happen.”

Bates’s 17 points were a season high. Smith finished with her second-highest scoring output of the season, and her five 3-pointers were also second best.

“When (Smith) can step up and shoot like that, you have ‘Z’ with the threat of going to the basket or pulling up, and now Kendra becoming a threat in the post, that makes us a much better team than what we were at the beginning of the season,” Randi Smith said. “We’ve got a lot more options offensively now.”

Eure scored 22 points to lead East Syracuse-Minoa (10-9), and Nicole Cassella drained six 3-pointers to finish with 20.

“We knew we had to go out and run the floor and play hard every minute,” Lexi Smith said.

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