Even with five new starters, the Marcellus boys basketball team has no intention of retreating from its recent run of success -- as shown by the way it earned the title at its own tip-off tournament during Thanksgiving weekend.
A season ago, the Mustangs, under the direction of head coach Jim Marsh, went 17-6, going all the way to the Section III Class B-1 title game at Manley Field House before dropping a narrow decision to Holland Patent.
Each starter from that night - Wes Hoy, Kevin Merriman, Nate Sexton, John Kermes and Alex Skvarch -- graduated. But Marsh had plenty of strong players on hand that saw action last winter and are ready to take over.
In the Marcellus Tournament's opening round last Friday, the hosts met Phoenix and used a great third quarter to propel itself in a 56-39 win over the Firebirds.
Neither side could make a big run in the first half. Clinging to a 25-23 edge at the break, the Mustangs shut down Phoenix in the third quarter and outscored them 17-5.
Jeff Watson led the charge, finishing with 15 points to pace a deep and balanced attack. Will Fiacchi added nine points, while Dan Heil and Matt Fox each had eight points and Scott Cotter added seven points. Dan Gabriele led Phoenix with 13 points.
In the other opening-round contest, Oswego fought past Faith Heritage, 59-53, setting up Saturday's title game between the Mustangs and Buccaneers.
And it would prove to be a tight one, all the way to the end, where Marcellus needed some big defensive stops to squeeze past Oswego 68-66.
Playing at a much faster tempo than tit did against Phoenix, the Mustangs charged to a 25-17 lead by the end of the first quarter, then cooled off as the Bucs slowly chipped away at that advantage for the rest of the night.