Shen survives and advances in state playoffs

Once again, the Northstars turned to Stewart, who was their leading scorer all year. The inbounds pass came directly to Stewart, but with three Shen defenders surrounding her and time running out, Stewart heaved a shot that clanged off the back of the rim.

"It was a good look [at the basket], and it was a look that we expected to give her," said Simth. "It was just an inch too long."

"We knew the ball was going to her," said Strube. "We wanted to make it as difficult of a shot as we could without fouling her."

The rebound landed in Gannett's hands, and the freshman took a final shot. But Ray stuffed the ball before it had a chance to go near the basket, and Shen prevailed.

That Cicero-North Syracuse still had a chance to win in the final seconds was a testament to the Northstars' resiliency. Shen opened up a 24-13 halftime lead after closing the second quarter on a 9-0 run, during which Cicero-North Syracuse turned the ball over several times and was beaten by Shen on the glass.

The Northstars turned things around in the third quarter, though. They started forcing Shen turnovers and getting offensive production from Paul and senior guard Brittney Fedele, which helped them tie the game at 25.

"We decided at halftime that we had to play harder," said Smith. "We were doing the things we needed to do in the first half. We just didn't do them hard enough."

"They played a lot better defensively," said Strube. "They put a lot more pressure on the ball and away from the ball."

Cicero-North Syracuse then opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run, capped by a Gannett basket that gave the North stars a 31-27 lead. The Northstars stayed in front until Magione brought Shen back and carried the Plainsmen into next weekend's state semifinals in Troy.

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