Without question, the Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball team looked upon its annual Christmas Tournament as a chance to stem a negative tide.
Prior to the holiday break, the Northstars had lost four in a row, falling to Baldwinsville, Utica Proctor, Auburn and Henninger to wipe out the gains of a 4-0 start.
Now, the tournament offered a chance for CNS to start clean -- and it would get the wins it needed, though it was far from smooth.
This was especially true in regards to Saturday's final against Ithaca, where the Northstars trailed in the fourth quarter, yet rallied to beat the Little Red 68-64.
Making close to everything in the first quarter, CNS sprinted out to a 27-16 lead by the early part of the second period. Ithaca's attention to the perimeter (especially to Laquan James) allowed for open looks in the paint and easy baskets -- especially from Jeff Falvey, who had 10 of his 14 points in the first half.
But when Ithaca switched to a zone, the Northstars began to struggle. Sensing this, Little Red guard Prince Griffith took over for a while, hitting nine consecutive points to push Ithaca in front, and CNS faced a 33-31 halftime deficit.
The two sides would swap the lead throughout the third quarter, leading to a 48-48 tie. Early in the final period, Ithaca went ahead 53-49, only to have CNS go on a 12-2 run, featuring Jon McCormick hitting a pair of 3-pointers on his way to 13 points for the afternoon.
Still, Ithaca hung in there, closing within two, 62-60, with barely a minute to play. Here, James really took over, scoring his team's last seven points, including a driving lay-up with 17.8 seconds left and two free throws with less than a second to play that sealed it.