Rarely in its history had the Canastota boys basketball team entered the post-season as a no. 1 seed, and it did not shrink in the fact of that added pressure.
Plenty of heat was applied in last Tuesday night's Class B-2 quarterfinal, where the Raiders had to rally in the fourth quarter to take out the no. 8 seed Skaneateles Lakers 54-52.
Despite its 9-12 record, the Lakers had gained plenty of experience and toughness from meeting high-quality foes like Cazenovia, Marcellus and Westhill twice each.
Applying that toughness, Skaneateles overcame the Raiders' 28-24 halftime lead and held Canastota in check throughout the third quarter to go in front.
Staring at the possible end of its turnaround season, Canastota would catch up, then get what turned out to be the winning points on Matt Ghezzi's pair of free thows with less than 10 seconds left.
Ghezzi, with 15 points, was one of just four Raiders to put in baskets. Yet they all made great contributions, as Joe Jacuk earned 16 points and James Lesher, in one of his best efforts of the season, matched Ghezzi with 15 points. Mickey Rouse got six of his eight points at the foul line.
Skaneateles had its own nice balance, too, as Eric Richards had 13 points and teammates John Eppolito (11 points), Jake Tracy (nine points) and Devlen Murphy (eight points) all made solid contributions.
Still, it was the Raiders that moved ahead to Saturday's Class B-2 semifinal at Manley Field House against no. 4 seed Lowville, who edged past Sauquoit Valley 55-54 in its quarterfinal contest.