It took four tries and a season full of frustration, but the Fayetteville-Manlius girls basketball team finally topped Oswego - and kept its dream of a Section III Class AA title alive.
The Hornets' fourth attempt to topple Oswego brought the payoff, as the Hornets fought past the no. 4 seed Buccaneers 38-35 in last Tuesday night's AA quarterfinals.
Twice in December tournaments, F-M ran into Oswego had suffered terrible starts and never could catch up. When the two side clashed a third time Jan. 29, the Hornets got beat in the final seconds.
No matter how it happened, F-M was sick of coming up on the wrong end against the Bucs, and were quite happy to get one more chance at finishing the job.
The only thing that saved the Hornets from big early trouble was its defense. This unit managed to cover up the fact that F-M had just three points in the first quarter, and stayed effective the rest of the half as the Hornets only trailed 15-12 at the break.
Somewhere in the third quarter, that defense started to reap some rewards. F-M finally hit baskets with regularity, more than doubling its total, and as they went to the final period, the Hornets clung to a 27-25 lead.
As time wound down, points again became precious. F-M again made crucial stops, and Torie Lee, facing some of the biggest pressure of her career, hit on all four free throws she took, which proved to be the winning points.
For the night, Lee had 14 points, while Katie Sager earned nine points and Emily Trapani got eight points. Oswego's Cari Reed led her disappointed side with 12 points.
Now the Hornets will try and upend top seed and defending Class AA champion Corcoran in Friday night's AA semifinal at Liverpool High School.
F-M beat Corcoran the last time they had met, on Jan. 23 -- but that win comes with a huge qualifier, since the Cougars' leading scorer and rebounder, Irene Hudson, was ill and did not play that night.
Hudson will presumably be around for this contest, where the winner moves on to the AA finals at Utica Memorial Auditorium March 7 against CBA or CIcero-North Syracuse.