After watching just about every other Section III boys basketball team tip off, Fayetteville-Manlius finally got on the court -- and showed that it was ready.
In control for much of last Tuesday night's battle with Corcoran, the Hornets saw a big lead dissipate, only to make the crucial plays down the stretch to pull off a 66-65 victory over the Cougars.
Under head coach Tom Blackford, the Hornets went 11-10 in 2005-06 and were dealt a first-round Section III Class AA playoff exit by Cicero-North Syracuse.
All that came, though, as Ethan Gilbert, the team's projected starting point guard, sat out the season with a knee injury.
Now Gilbert was back, ready to team up with fellow senior Pat Lee to form one of the area's best inside-outside combinations. Together, they and the rest of the Hornets pushed Corcoran around for much of the opener.
In his inside duel with Canisius College-bound Elton Frazier, Lee had most of the early success. That, combined with Gilbert's solid leadership and good bench production (all 10 F-M players that saw court time had at least one field goal), put the Hornets up 59-48 by the end of the third quarter.
But the quick pace got to F-M, and it began to tire. Taking full advantage, the Cougars roared back and tied the game, 65-65, on Frazier's layup.
With regulation time winding down, F-M put it in Lee's hands. Fouled as he worked near the basket, the senior sank a free throw to put the Hornets ahead, then grabbed the rebound after Corcoran's possible game-winning shot rimmed out.
That was Lee's 15th rebound of the night, a clear individual victory to go with the 21 points he put up against Frazier, who countered with 15 points.
Gilbert (10 points) and Scott Kleinklaus (12 points) also broke into double figures, while Brett Small had eight points. Frazier, Darnell Sapps, Sean McMahon (14 points each) and Desmond Dixie (13 points) accounted for most of Corcoran's offense.