Through stellar defense and an ability to play its best down the stretch, the Fayetteville-Manlius girls basketball team made it all the way to last year's Section III Class AA final.
And while the Hornets could not beat Cicero-North Syracuse in that championship game, it still accomplished a lot -- and left F-M with a lot of expectations for 2009-10.
Torie Lee, Morgan Axenfeld, Liz Towne and Katie Sager graduated, meaning head coach Scott DeForest had to find four new starters to team up with senior Emily Tripani, the lone returning starter.
Judging by the early returns, the Hornets appear just fine, as it battled its way to the first-place trophy at the annual Jamesville-DeWitt Tip-Off Tournament, beating the host Red Rams 40-36 for the championship.
Both of F-M's games proved to be major tests. In the opening round, the Hornets had to rally to force overtime against fellow Class AA power Oswego, then pulled out a 48-42 victory over the Buccaneers.
F-M had beaten Oswego 38-35 in last year's AA quarterfinal round. Remembering that, the Bucs seized an early 12-9 lead on the Hornets, then played to a virtual stalemate over the next two periods as both defenses proved stout.
As regulation time wound down, F-M still trailed 38-36 -- but Trapani, showing her veteran poise, sank the tying basket, and the two sides went to a four-minute OT period.
There, the Hornets took control, outscoring the Bucs 10-4. Trapani, with 20 points, and Alexis Rios, with 13 points, accounted for much of F-M's offense as Oswego got 13 points from Michelle Canale and 11 points from Brooke Reifinger.
J-D was 14-8 a season ago, its Class A title dreams stifled as much by injury as by inconsistent play. Looking to improve, the Red Rams started out well in its own tournament, beating Massena 58-47 in the opening round.