As it headed toward the Section III Class D playoffs, the Hamilton boys basketball team knew that it had undergone the most thorough examination possible.
Just as importantly, it went in there feeling quite good about its own chances, especially after Wednesday night's 58-44 win over DeRuyter, ranked no. 10 in the state Class D polls.
DeRuyter, coached by Todd Widrick (who had previous stints at Cazenovia College, Cazenovia High School and Westhill), had won 12 in a row coming into this game, one of those a victory over Hamilton on Jan. 26.
But in the rematch, made up from a Dec. 22 snow postponement, the Emerald Knights did not get discouraged when it managed just seven points in the first quarter and fell behind the Rockets again.
Instead, Hamilton started finding gaps in DeRuyter's vaunted defense, outscoring them 18-10 in the second quarter to take a 25-21 edge to the break.
All through the second half, Hamilton maintained that edge, then pulled away in the final minutes behind a diverse attack.
Derrick Cenicola led with 18 points, including six successful free throws. Matt Broedel chimed in with 13 points, as Nate Stewart stepped up for 10 points and Keith Upton added nine points. Eric Russell, with 15 points, was the lone DeRuyter player to score in double figurse.
Prior to that, the Emerald Knights had to make a heart-pounding comeback in last Monday's game against Oriskany to beat the Redskins 50-48.
This game went through lots of extremes. Tied 15-15 after one period, Hamilton appeared to take control by holding Oriskany to five points in the second quarter as it zoomed to a 30-20 edge.
Coming right back, the Redskins dominated the third quarter on both ends, as Michael Bunal (20 points) and Mike Gaglianese (16 points) led Oriskany on a 19-4 run, putting Hamilton behind, 39-34, with one period left.
Looking at back-to-back defeats, the Emerald Knights staged its own rally, tying the game 48-48, then winning it when Cenicola's short jumper beat the buzzer.
Both Cenicola and Broedel finished with 14 points, while John Schell helped by getting most of his 13 points from a trio of 3-pointers.