Though Liverpool boys basketball head coach Jerry Wilcox has made many trips back to Bishop Ludden, a place where he coached for 14 seasons, this one had to be one of the most satisfying.
Trailing by as many as 15 points in Monday night's final of the Rosemary Corcoran Holiday Classic, the Warriors came back and squeezed out a 54-53 victory over the Gaelic Knights.
The game wasn't settled until Richard Green blocked John Rooney's potential game-winning shot in the final seconds of regulation, which capped a superb second-half defensive effort on Liverpool's part.
All through the first two periods, Liverpool mostly watched as Ludden flashed for open jump shots - and made most of them.
Mark DeAngelis had 10 of his game-high 17 points in the second period, and the Warriors' deficit grew to 32-17 before it closed within 34-24 by halftime.
Still down by double digits, 38-26, early in the third quarter, the Warriors cranked up its pressure, harassing any Ludden player with the ball and not allowing anything inside. In particular, Liverpool did a terrific job containing Rooney, holding him to a season-low four points.
Offensively, reserve Ian Hamm stepped up. All of his 13 points came in the second half, and each of them would be needed.
Liverpool used a 22-5 run to seize a 48-43 lead in the fourth quarter, only to have Ludden answer with eight straight points of its own, keyed by a pair of Tyler Young 3-pointers.
But Hamm countered with four straight free throws and a key rebound basket with 1:23 left, putting the Warriors back in front 54-51.
After DeAngelis sank two free throws with 55 seconds left to cut the margin to one, Ludden's Omar Osbourne made a steal, giving Ludden a chance to take the last shot.
With two fouls to give, Liverpool used both of them. Finally, Rooney drove to the middle and, from 15 feet out, shot - but Green swatted it away and Liverpool reclaimed possession with 0.4 seconds left, clinching the outcome.
Jesse Gates, who had 13 points, was named tournament MVP, and Adam Misener (11 points) joined Gates on the All-Tournament team.
Liverpool beat St. Joseph's (Staten Island) 60-55 in the opening round, using a series of late free throws by Gates and Connor Rogers to put it away. Gates finished with 24 points, while Rogers put up 13 points.
Having improved to 6-2 on the season (with both losses coming to Fayetteville-Manlius), the Warriors resume CNY Counties League play on Jan. 5 against Nottingham.