Two long weeks had passed since the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team had settled for a third-place finish at the Nov. 27-28 Lady Raider Classic in Utica.
That was more than enough time for the Northstars to work on every possible flaw - and judging by initial results, the work helped.
With terrific defense and a big second half from Breanna Stewart, CNS beat Section V visitor Pittsford Sutherland 62-42 in Saturday's Thruway Shootout.
Both sides got off to slow starts, going more than five minutes without a point in the first quarter. Despite this, CNS squeezed into a 7-6 lead.
In fact, after the Knights went ahead 11-10 early in the second quarter, the Northstars would not trail again. Up by four late in the half, CNS used a Brittany Paul jumper and a three-point play from Stewart to extend its lead to 27-18 going into the break.
Just as importantly, the entire Northstars defense was forcing Pittsford Sutherland outside. Stewart's imposing presence in the paint had something to do with it, and the Knights could not hit on all of its outside shots.
Steadily, the CNS margin grew in the third quarter as it outscored Pittsford Sutherland 22-13. Stewart, by herself, had 12 points, on her way to 25 points and 15 rebounds for the afternoon, and Paul would increase her total to 17 points, adding 10 rebounds. Kelsey Mattice contributed 12 points.
All told, CNS had a 15-0 run, spanning the third and fourth quarters, and cruised home to improve its record to 2-1.
Prior to the game, Stewart was honored with a plaque for her participation on Team USA in last summer's FIBA America U-16 Championships in Mexico. Stewart, averaging 9.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game for the tournament, helped the Americans go 5-0 and win the gold medal.
At this same event, Corcoran held off a late rally by Greece Arcadia to prevail, 59-57, while Liverpool lost to Pittsford Mendon 57-34 and Oswego took a 50-45 defeat to Fairport.
CNS takes on Henninger Tuesday, then goes to New Jersey's University High School next weekend for the "Festival of the Phoenix" Tournament.