Even before the calendar turned to December, the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team had to deal with a potential season-altering crisis.
In the opening minute of the Northstars' 60-48 victory over Utica Proctor in the Nov. 29 final of Proctor's Tip-Off Tournament, senior point guard Morgan Nandin broke her ankle, which will sideline her for the rest of the regular season.
Nandin could be back in time for the playoffs, and the injury should not keep her from playing her best sport, softball (where she earned a scholarship to Syracuse University) in the spring.
Still, CNS had to wonder, going into Thursday night's key early-season test against defending Section III Class AA champion Corcoran, just how it would react with a new point guard, sophomore Kelsey Mattice, at the helm.
Mattice would prove up to the task, keeping turnovers to a minimum and hitting key baskets in the fourth quarter as she, along with freshman sensation Breanna Stewart, powered the Northstars past the Cougars 55-49.
Corcoran not only had gone to the state final four a season ago, it did so with a starting lineup entirely composed of underclassmen. They were all back, part of a nine-player rotation that assured the Cougars would not tire down the stretch.
CNS didn't flinch in the early going, though. Instead, it tore out to a 19-8 lead as Shannon Hickin benefited from the attention given to Stewart to post six of her 11 points and Marybeth Egan hit all of her 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers.
But when Egan went to the bench with her second foul in the second quarter, Corcoran pounced, hitting on rebound baskets during a 12-2 run that pushed the Northstars into a 33-30 halftime deficit.
Nine times in the second half, the lead changed hands, neither side able to make any kind of run, until Mattice and Stewart took command.