A pair of tantalizing individual showdowns stood at the heart of last Saturday night's early-season boys basketball showdown between Christian Brothers Academy and Henninger in the grand finale of the Peppino's Classic.
And in both instances, the Brothers proved to be better.
Stefan Thompson outplayed Kihary Blue at the point guard spot, and Mike Goodman took full advantage of Jermaine Taylor's foul trouble to rule in the paint.
Those facts, combined with timely baskets from the rest of CBA's roster and a cold spell for Henninger's shooters, produced a 69-58 victory, one that labeled the Brothers as the early Section III Class AA title favorites.
Much had changed since the last time CBA and Henninger met, a 65-44 decision in last February's AA semifinal that propelled the Black Knights to the sectional title.
Even with four starters gone, including 7-footer Ben Cronin (who went to the University of Michigan), the Black Knights still had its point guard in Blue, plus forwards like Taylor and Christian Smith to worry about.
Both sides came in with 3-0 records and had not played for a full week, and they got 24 more hours of rest after the original game on Friday got postponed by bad winter weather.
When they took to the court, though, it was clear that the Brothers had more energy and drive, never trailing after a 10-10 tie late in the first quarter and stretching its margin to 32-19 by halftime.
Everywhere Blue went, Thompson went with him, creating pressure and forcing the Henninger senior to pass off, and the rest of the defense rushed shots from the perimeter that, more often than not, fell off line. When fouled, Thompson converted, too, as half of his 22 points came from the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, Taylor never proved to be a factor, hampered by early foul trouble and managing just five points. His counterpart, Goodman, got to the net enough times to earn 13 points, seven of them free throws, as he moved within three points of 1,000 for his career. Greg Thomson (12 points) and Troy Bullock (10 points) were close behind.
A couple of times in the second half, Henninger pulled back to single digits, led by Jon Cooper's 19 points and Blue's total of 14 points.
Only ahead by seven, 48-41, in the fourth quarter, the Brothers went on a decisive 9-0 push, with Mike Kitts getting five of those points to put it away.
The Brothers are home again Friday night to face Chittenango, going for its fifth win in a row in advance of the Bottar-Leone Holiday Classic Dec. 29 and 30, where West Genesee, Albany CBA and St. John's Prep (Queens) are the honored guests.