Not taking the easy path in its quest to stay undefeated, the Marcellus boys basketball team underwent a pair of rigorous examinations against Class A opponents in the course of the Fulton Holiday Tournament -- and passed both of them to move to 9-0 on the season.
In the first part, the Mustangs proved more than able in last Monday's game against Whitesboro, using its size and depth to give the Warriors its first defeat of the season by a score of 67-52.
Going in, the Mustangs knew that it could not allow Whitesboro to get open outside looks. Still, the Warriors flew out of the gate, bolting to an 18-7 lead in less than four minutes' time, the largest deficit Marcellus had faced all season.
But that didn't faze the Mustangs one bit. Instead, it waited for Whitesboro to cool off, then ran off 11 unanswered points to catch up before the first quarter was done.
They traded baskets throughout the second quarter before Marcellus used an 8-0 run, including 3-pointers from Steve Raven and Dan Heil, to move ahead for good.
The real takeover, though, took place in the third quarter. As Heil kept hitting outside shots, Will Fiacchi and Niko Wagner controlled the paint, all part of a 16-3 run that built the Mustangs' lead to 53-39. Whitesboro never got close again.
Heil finished with 18 points, hitting on four 3-pointers to account for most of it. Fiacchi and Wagner each got 13 points, while Nolan earned nine points and Zach Barbaro earned six points. For Whitesboro, Mike Ryan had 19 points and Junior Woodard added 12 points.
Marcellus would meet the hosts from Fulton in Tuesday's final, after the Red Raiders edged Watertown 56-51 to reach this point.
The Mustangs would be without Fiacchi, as the much-touted football quarterback traveled to San Antonio that day for evaluation from top college football programs at the U.S. Army National football combine.