Against opposition both local and otherwise, the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team wanted some late-season momentum going into Tuesday night's key home contest against defending Class AA champion Henninger. Just as importantly, at least in the short term, the Hornets also wanted to give head coach Tom Blackford his 400th career win.
But that plan ground to a halt Thursday night, when the 11-4 Hornets got surprised at 4-12 Cicero-North Syracuse, beaten by a score of 54-52.
CNS had been starting to show some life in the regular-season homestretch. But it was coming off a double-overtime game at Liverpool while, at the same time, F-M was handling East Syracuse-Minoa.
Yet after the Hornets took an early lead, it slumped in the second quarter, watching as CNS doubled them up, 16-8, and grabbed a 24-20 edge going into the break.
Forced into a slow tempo it did not want, F-M spent the majority of the second half in a frustrating chase, unable to speed things up and run past a stubborn Northstars defense.
In particular, star junior Brian Zapisek could not get started, held to a season-low seven points, something that Mike O'Neil (19 points) and Erik Mueller (13 points) could not overcome.
Despite all this, the game was in doubt right to the end, but it was Andy Falvey, who had 21 points, hitting what proved to be the winning points on last-minute free throws as CNS took a 54-50 lead that the Hornets could not overcome. John Howell and Gary Shavalier, with 10 points apiece, offered Falvey the support he needed.
Thus, Blackford was stuck at 398 career wins when the Hornets went to Auburn Friday night.