Of all the tasks the Marcellus boys basketball team undertakes, few are as important, at least in the regular season, as maintaining superiority in its long-running rivalry against Skaneateles.
So the Mustangs went to Skaneateles last Friday night and, for 30 out of 32 minutes, handled this task with poise and confidence.
It was just those last two minutes that proved to be a problem.
From a seemingly comfortable 10-point lead, Marcellus saw it all disappear in a stunning 59-57 defeat to the Lakers.
Nothing that happened in the preliminary stages suggested the nightmare to follow. The two sides played each other close most of the first half, but a 6-0 spurt in the last 90 seconds before the break allowed Marcellus to pull out to a 30-21 edge, with Will Fiacchi leading the way as he got 17 points.
Skaneateles roared back, pulling within field goal at both 38-36 and 47-45. Both times, the Mustangs responded well, especially in an 8-0 run late in the fourth quarter. When Will Nolan's 3-pointer made it 57-47 with 2:35 left, it looked like yet another Marcellus win to add to last season's sweep of the Lakers.
At first, it didn't seem to be a major concern when Kevin Rice hit two free throws with 1:41 left and Mike Richards hit a short jumper 11 seconds later to make it 57-51.
But small concern turned into outright panic when, in a matter of seconds, Marcellus missed two front ends of one-and-one free-throw chances and, on the ensuing possessions, Skaneateles made 3-pointers -- first by Richards, then by Brandon Barron.
It was Barron's trey with 42 seconds left that tied it, 57-57. Incredibly, it had taken just 59 seconds for the entire Mustang lead to disappear. And it would get worse.
When Luke McNaney got whistled for being unable to get the ball inbounds, the Lakers had a chance to go in front -- and did so, Rice converting a layup with 10 seconds left.