All it took for the Christian Brothers Academy boys basketball team was one big performance to establish itself as, perhaps, the Section III Class AA championship favorites again.
With a stirring, last-minute comeback last Wednesday night at Buddy Wleklinski Court, the Brothers knocked off Henninger 57-54, the second time this season it has beaten the defending sectional champions.
CBA was coming off back-to-back losses to Cortland and Rush-Henrietta, defeats that may have counteracted CBA's confidence that stemmed from winning at Henninger 69-58 on Dec. 13.
The rematch again would see point guards Stefan Thompson (CBA) and Kihary Blue (Henninger) square off, and the two sides worked through a 13-13 first quarter waiting for someone to break free.
CBA did first, grabbing a 29-20 lead at one point in the second quarter, but led by Blue, the Black Knights closed back within two, 30-28, by the time they went to the break.
Little changed in the third quarter, as the defenses on both sides prevented any more sustained runs. Still, Blue had 19 points, and anything more could mean a CBA defeat.
Knowing this, the Brothers shut down Blue in the fourth quarter, holding him scoreless. At first, that didn't work, as Henninger fought its way to a 52-48 lead, setting up an exciting finish.
Pat Wiese's 3-pointer with 2:35 left made it 52-51. After James Bardenett converted to move Henninger's lead back to three, Thompson converted with a minute left on a driving lay-up, and it was 54-53.
So it remained when, with 23 seconds left, Blue went to the free-throw line. Blue missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Mike Goodman got the rebound. CBA had a chance to reclaim the lead.
Not using a time-out, CBA gave it to Thompson, who drove right past the unsettled Henninger defenders to the net and again scored with 13 seconds to play. Though the Black Knights had time to win it, an offensive foul and some free throws gave the Brothers its winning margin.
Again playing his best against a first-rate opponent, Thompson had 22 points, while Goodman worked inside for 14 points and Greg Thomson added eight points. Jermaine Taylor (14 points) and Jon Cooper (12 points) joined Blue in double figures on Henninger's side.
From the excitement of this win, CBA has to turn right around and play Bishop Ludden Friday night in the latest "Holy War" installment at Onondaga Community College.