Even without a superstar presence to deal with, the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team knew its Saturday home date with Utica Proctor provided another chance to knock off a possible Class AA title contender in front of the home folks.
And in the course of 32 minutes, the Hornets learned plenty about itself, both good and bad, but the best part was that it left with a 66-61 victory over the Raiders that did not lack for excitement.
Proctor has reached the last three Section III Class AA finals and won titles in 2006 and '07. But when Deandre Preaster graduated, the Raiders were forced to reload. So far, that had worked, as Proctor brought a 3-1 record to the "Hornets' Nest" for a game pushed back from Friday night by a winter snowstorm.
Meanwhile, F-M had scored more than 80 points in each of its first three games, going 2-1 as it moved away from a defensive-oriented approach to something played at a much higher tempo. It was, said head coach Tom Blackford, a necessary thing to do, given that no player on the roster is taller than 6-4.
With many recent F-M players back home on holiday break to watch, the Hornets started out ice-cold, managing just one field goal in the game's first four minutes. However, Proctor couldn't get a big margin, and by quarter's end, the Hornets had caught up.
Again, the Raiders seized the lead in the second quarter. Again, F-M came back, as the lead switched hands seven times late in the half and Brian Zapisek wowed the fans with an alley-oop dunk. At the break, the Hornets clung to a 30-28 lead.
By the middle of the third quarter, Zapisek had 23 points, and the Hornets appeared to be getting away. By putting together a 24-8 stretch, F-M roared to a 56-40 edge with barely five minutes to play, and it looked to be over.