Though it's real early, the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team's template for success in 2009-10 is already starting to emerge - and much of it involves keeping the other side off the scoreboard.
In the first of two encounters with Liverpool in a nine-day span (the rematch is Dec. 18 at F-M), the Hornets went right into the Warriors' home gym and, again, mostly relied on its defense to beat the Warriors 52-43.
These same two teams had met in this same venue in last year's Section III Class AA quarterfinals, and F-M had pulled it out, 62-61.
Liverpool remembered that result, and wanted a small form of payback. It helped to have last year's leading scorer, Jesse Gates, back, and the Warriors had started strong, winning a Dec. 4-5 tournament at Union-Endicott to open the season.
None of this mattered against F-M. Gates was cold from the field, getting most of his 13 points in the late going, while F-M used a wide variety of defenses - some man-to-man, some zone - to thoroughly frustrate the Warriors. Much of the first half was an exchange of baskets, neither side getting any margin larger than five points.
Then, with the score 21-21 as the half wound down, F-M made its decisive move, getting eight unanswered points. Coming off the bench, Lewis Kelley had back-to-back rebound baskets. Then Brian Zapisek pulled off a steal and lay-up, and Mike O'Neil hit a jumper just inside the 3-point line a second before the buzzer.
After an evenly played third quarter, F-M got away in the late going, growing the margin as much as 50-36 before a sloppy finish.
Zapisek led his side with 14 points, also excelling on the defensive side with a series of rebounds, steals and blocked shots. Kelley had 12 points, with Mike Lee getting 10 points. O'Neill and Giles earned seven points apiece.