Year after year, the Liverpool and Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball teams have churned out double-digit winning seasons, only to see others claim the glory once the Section III Class AA playoffs roll around.
As 2008-09 began for both sides last Tuesday night, the Warriors and Northstars managed to open with each other, with Liverpool getting the jump in this long-time rivalry last by posting a 56-49 victory.
Liverpool was 16-6 a season ago, falling to Auburn in the AA quarterfinals. Veteran head coach Jerry Wilcox saw much of his lineup graduate, and the current Warrior roster has just five seniors.
Meanwhile, after seeing his team get knocked out at home by Corcoran in the opening round following a 13-7 regular season, CNS head coach John Haas had to see most of his starting lineup depart, including Laquan James and Jeff Falvey.
Thus, each side had new faces ready to see what would happen when they tipped off. As it turned out, the Warriors are a bit further ahead.
Applying the usual brand of intense, close-up defense Wilcox loves, the Warriors held CNS in check throughout the first three periods as it built a 41-28 lead. CNS would revive a bit in the fourth quarter, but it would be too late.
Jesse Gates proved to be the big start of the night. The 6-4 Liverpool junior finished with 23 points, owning the paint and providing for nine of his team's 19 field goals. Jeff Chase (10 points) and Matt Harrington (six points) offered the main support.
As for the Northstars, Gary Shavalier provided a boost, as the senior guard finished with 15 points. John Howell had nine points, with Eric Munoz adding eight points.