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Hornets hold off Liverpool, go to AA semis

What took a full game for the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team to build in Friday night's Section III Class AA quarterfinal at Liverpool nearly dissipated in less than seven seconds.

That's the span of time where a five-point Hornets lead melted away -- and only a bad, spur-of-the-moment decision prevented possible overtime as, by a score of 62-61, F-M kept its championship dreams alive.

As a result, the no. 5 seed Hornets will try to take down top seed and defending champion Henninger in this weekend's AA semifinals, with the winner to get CBA or Utica Proctor in the March 7 title game at Manley Field House.

Given all that happened in the frantic homestretch at Liverpool, F-M was just happy to still be in the picture.

Never trailing all night, the Hornets still found itself tied, 57-57, when Mike O'Neil hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:11 left to put F-M back in front.

Twice, Liverpool's Jesse Gates tried to tie it with 3-point shots. Brian Zapisek blocked one of them, and the other went off the rim. Fouled with 11.1 seconds left, O'Neil calmly sank both free throws, and with the Hornets ahead 62-57, it looked to be safe, as long as F-M didn't foul.

So naturally F-M fouled Liverpool's Connor Rogers driving to the basket with 6.7 seconds left, a major blunder -- especially after Rogers sank the free throws to make it 62-59, then stole the ensuing inbounds pass with plenty of time to tie it with a 3-pointer.

Amid the frenzy, though, Liverpool's Richard Green forgot the game situation and drove in for a lay-up to cut the margin to one. F-M didn't contest the basket and the Warriors, out of time-outs, watched the clock run out.

F-M had lost at Liverpool Jan. 9, a game where head coach Tom Blackford said that poor shooting played a big role in the outcome. At least in the opening stages of the rematch, that wasn't a problem.

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