As the calendar turns to 2009, the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team is in much higher spirits, having moved its record to 5-1 by taking the championship of the Cicero-North Syracuse Holiday Classic.
Winning that event required beating the host Northstars in last Tuesday night's final. It was close for a while, but the Hornets lit up in the second half and got away from CNS, earning a comfortable 75-55 victory.
The Hornets knew that it faced a bigger, stronger opponent, so it pushed the tempo in the first half and tolerated the fact that the Northstars hung around. When they went to the locker room, F-M only had a 37-35 lead.
That would soon change, though. With superior speed and athleticism, the Hornets ran right past CNS in the third quarter, outscoring them 24-11 and never getting caught.
Brian Zapisek, who finished with 21 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, earned tournament MVP honors, but he was far from alone in the winning effort.
Jack Giles finished with 16 points, hitting on four 3-pointers as F-M finished with 11 treys for the night. Erik Mueller worked the paint for 14 points, while Mike O'Neil finished with 13 points. Andy Falvey led CNS's effort with 22 points.
A day earlier, F-M went up against Ithaca in the opening round and rode a near-perfect start to a 74-56 victory over the Little Red.
Needless to say, the Hornets were ready from the opening tip. Hitting on all kinds of shots while playing strong defense, F-M had a 22-5 edge on Ithaca before the first quarter was over.
For the rest of the night, the Hornets protected that edge, as Zapisek and O'Neil both stayed hot, earning 21 points apiece.
Not far behind them, Mueller worked his way to 14 points, while T.J. Earley gained eight points and Giles earned seven points.
F-M then watched as CNS needed some late free throws to fend off Thomas Jefferson High, from the Rochester area, in a 52-50 thriller that sharply contrasted the Hornets' comfortable win -- which might have proved important in the final.
On Wednesday night, the Hornets start its 2009 slate against Nottingham before a key Friday game at Liverpool.