A sense of excitement surrounded the Marcellus boys basketball team as the 2006-07 season got underway with the Mustangs' own tip-off tournament, and for good reason.
Coming off a campaign where it went 15-7, shared the OHSL Liberty division title with Westhill and reached the Section III Class B-1 semifinals before falling to Cazenovia, the Mustangs carry championship expectations.
And with just three seniors departed from 2005-06, Marcellus has a lot of senior experience on the court, something that is useful in late-game pressure situations.
To prove its worth, Marcellus went out and won its tournament in convincing fashion, employing two different methods along the way.
In the opening round Friday against Phoenix, the Mustangs were suffocating on the defensive side, shutting down the Firebirds in a 54-31 rout.
All Marcellus did was limit Phoenix to 10 first-half points, and while that could not be maintained all the way, the Mustangs improved enough on the offensive end to still make it a one-sided affair.
John Kermes finished with 18 points, including seven converted free throws. Nate Sexton put up nine points, while Wes Hoy put up seven points. In defeat, Phoenix's Shane Gabrielle got 16 points.
A day later, in the championship game against Whitesboro, the Mustangs had to play an entirely different way -- but still managed to beat the Warriors 72-66.
Giving up more than twice the points it did against Phoenix, Marcellus still pulled it out because two of its seniors proved impossible for Whitesboro to handle.
Kermes continued to draw attention from defenders, and he made the Warriors pay. Of his 23 points, 11 came from successful free throws. Hoy got seven of his nine points from the foul line.
Meanwhile, Sexton offered the threat from the perimeter, draining a trio of 3-pointers on his way to 22 points, a career high.
Having offered this opening statement, Marcellus will look to continue the argument early next week in league games at Solvay and Faith Heritage.