A pair of major opportunities sat in front of the Christian Brothers Academy boys basketball team last Friday night, waiting to be taken.
Not only could the Brothers announce its return to prominence by beating 11-2 Cicero-North Syracuse last Friday night, it could ruin the homecoming for one of the biggest stars in the program's history.
On both accounts, CBA succeeded, fighting off a string of Northstar comebacks and prevailing, 64-60, in one of the season's most riveting games.
John Haas was a three-sport star (basketball, football, baseball) at CBA before he graduated in 1989, and his contributions to the athletic program led to induction into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame, as his plaque (along with all the others) sits right outside the gym.
Though Haas has coached the Northstars since 2002, it was the first time he had brought the team back to his alma mater, having played CBA the other times at LeMoyne College (twice) and at CNS a season ago.
Each team had a lot at stake. CBA, once 1-7, was going for its fourth win in a row, all done in eight days since J.T. Miranda returned to the starting lineup. CNS had a great record, but a win here could certify its status as a championship contender.
Playing strong man-to-man defense, the Brothers frustrated the Northstars early and built a 22-11 lead, but CNS roared back and, by halftime, had pulled in front 30-29.
The pattern continued in the second half. Twice, CBA went in front. Twice, the Northstars rallied, taking advantage of Mike Goodman's foul trouble. When Shawn Moonan capped off a 7-0 spurt by scoring with 2:01 to play, CNS had a 60-59 lead.
But those would be the Northstars' last points of the night. Miranda and Mike Paulus played lockdown defense down the stretch, while Marcus Sales put his team in front with two free throws with 1:22 left, and Goodman sank three more foul shots in the last minute to seal it.