As it piled up wins early this season, the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team remained, for the most part, an unsolved mystery.
Sure, the Northstars were young, talented and vastly improved from its 7-14 mark of a season ago, but was it ready to contend for much higher honors?
That answer might be in the affirmative -- or at least it's closer to that point after CNS earned a huge road win last Tuesday night, holding off a late charge from Fayetteville-Manlius to beat the Hornets 57-53.
With the Northstars 9-3 and the Hornets 9-2 after seeing its eight-game win streak end at Utica Proctor on Jan. 5, this match-up was a good barometer for both sides, to see just where they stood.
Right from the opening tip, CNS took the game to F-M on both ends. It played superb perimeter defense, never letting any of the Hornets' dangerous shooters get open looks, and used a mix of crisp passes and strong rebounding to control the offensive side.
In the first half alone, senior Corissa Quattrini had 10 points and 10 rebounds, and that helped the Northstars build a lead as big as 12 before going to the halftime break with a 29-21 advantage.
All through the game's middle stages, F-M threatened to make runs, but CNS kept answering, especially Marybeth Egan. The sophomore had six points in the third quarter as the Northstars' lead grew to 43-30 by the end of that frame.
From that point forward, CNS had to hang on. Finally showing some spark, F-M gradually ate into that margin, getting even more help when Quattrini, who finished with 17 points, fouled out with 3:11 left.
Morgan Axenfeld's basket with 41.3 seconds to play cut the Hornets' margin to 55-53, but the Northstars would hang on. Egan, who hit on five free throws in the last two minutes, hit two more with 29.5 seconds left that clinched the contest.
For the night, Egan finished with 19 points. Morgan Nandin helped out, with nine points. Emily Trapani (18 points) and Axenfeld (16 points) led the Hornets' attack as top scorer Torie Lee was held to six points.
Following this victory, CNS gets to rest for 10 days, not returning until Jan. 19, when it visits Auburn.