When handed the no. 8 seed for this year's edition of the Section III Class AA playoffs, the Fayetteville-Manlius girls basketball team knew that the designation brought mixed messages.
On the one hand, the Hornets could be at home for the opening round of the playoffs -- and used that to its advantage to knock off Central Square 59-38 in an impressive all-around effort.
On the other hand, though, F-M would get "rewarded" by going east to face top seed and two-time defending champion Utica Proctor in Friday night's AA quarterfinals.
First came the good part -- a superb effort against Central Square Tuesday night in the "Hornets' Nest" as F-M bounced back from its 70-54 loss to Auburn in the regular-season finale on Feb. 9.
Setting the tone on the defensive side, the Hornets shut down the Red Hawks for much of the first quarter, holding them to just four points and building a double-digit lead in short order.
Briefly, Central Square would bounce back, cutting the margin to 27-17 by halftime. But F-M's pressure never allowed the Red Hawks to make any kind of sustained run, allowing the lead to nearly double during the course of the second half.
In his post-season debut, Brian Zapisek was spectacular, as the sophomore poured in 26 points, nearly half his team's output.
Zapisek's fellow sophomore, Jack Giles, joined Erik Mueller as each of them earned 10 points, while Shane Bush gained nine points. In defeat, Central Square's Kyle Miller had 20 points.
Good as that was, it will take an effort twice as special to win at Utica Proctor, where the Raiders have not dropped a home game in four years.