While it has played everyone tough since Will Fiacchi's season-ending foot injury, the Marcellus boys basketball team has been unable to knock off an elite opponent.
Another chance came last Friday night, at Westhill. Again, the Mustangs played it close -- and again, it still led to defeat, as it fell to the Warriors 59-54.
A win here, and Marcellus would still have a chance to grab a piece of the OHSL Liberty division title with Hannibal. Westhill carried those same ambitions, though, and were at home, a place where it had not lost all season in six previous tries.
Led by its lone senior, Mike Mascari, the Warriors jumped on the Mustangs 11-1, then nursed that margin throughout the first half as Marcellus constantly tried to eat into it.
Still down 31-23 at halftime, the Mustangs suddenly caught fire early in the third quarter. Led by Will Nolan's hot shooting, Marcellus took less than four minutes to earn its first lead of the night.
For the rest of the game, Nolan, who finished with 24 points, waited for some help. Westhill's man-to-man defense didn't allow it to happen, though, as no one else got to double figures, though Scott Cotter (nine points) got close. Zach Barbaro and Steve Raven each got six points.
Meanwhile, the Warriors inched in front in the late going behind its star player, Dan Ross, who received all the Mustangs' defensive attention, but still got 22 points and 19 rebounds, with Mike McMullen (11 points) in a supporting role.
The warm-up for Westhill came last Tuesday night, at Homer, a one-sided affair where the Mustangs, playing for the first time in 10 days, flattened the Trojans 67-33.
Throughout the first half, Marcellus stayed in charge, outscoring Homer 38-15 while getting every member of its offense on track.
Dan Heil, with 15 points (including three 3-pointers), led four players in double figures. Cotter had 12 points, while Nolan had 11 points and Raven earned 10 points. James Kinney got eight points. Barbaro, back from the college trip that caused him to miss the Jan. 23 loss to Bishop Grimes, had seven points.
At 15-3 following the Westhill defeat, the Mustangs still had home games left with Solvay and Skaneateles to regain its footing before Sunday's announcement of the Section III Class B playoff brackets.