Humbled a bit by its first defeat of the season to Albany power Bishop Maginn, the Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball team had another chance to compete against -- and conquer -- a state-ranked foe.
That opportunity arrived on Friday night, when the Northstars met Henninger, no, 14 in the state Class AA polls, issued before the Black Knights' last-second overtime loss to defending sectional champion Utica Proctor.
Wanting to run and establish its own tempo, CNS could never pull that off, watching instead as Henninger pounded away -- and pulled away in the late going, handing the Northstars a 64-43 defeat.
Neither side started quickly, giving CNS the chance to put together a run. Instead, Henninger made the jump, outscoring the Northstars 20-10 in the second quarter to build a double-digit lead.
Try as it could, the Northstars could not provide an adequate answer, even though it held the Black Knights' 7-foot junior center, Ben Cronin, to just four points.
Pat Corbin did gain 14 points, and Shawn Moonan added 11 points. But Laquan James managed just seven points, and his teammates had even less success against the formidable Henninger defense.
Meanwhile, Stefen Gage led the Black Knights with 20 points and senior forward David Simmons pounded away with 17 points. Marquis Kirkland had 12 points.
Prior to this, CNS had gone on the road to play another city foe, Fowler, and emerged with an 83-72 victory over the Falcons.
A great second-quarter performance made the difference. Breaking out of a 19-19 tie, the Northstars kept up its pace and improved on defense enough to build a 40-29 edge, then maintained it throughout the second half.
By far, the biggest story was James' increased presence on the offensive side. The junior slid right through Fowler's defenders throughout the night and finished with 23 points, a career high that included three 3-pointers.