Much of the Christian Brothers Academy boys basketball team's status as a top Section III Class AA title contender came from the pair of wins it attained over defending champion Henninger during the regular season.
But to rise to the summit, the Brothers will need to beat the Black Knights again.
CBA and Henninger, the top two seeds, both with 18-4 records, meet Saturday at 2:30 in the last-ever sectional Class AA final to be played at Manley Field House before Syracuse University turns it into an athletic practice facility.
The Brothers reached the title game in fine style, taking it right to no. 6 seed Utica Proctor in last Friday night's AA semifinal at Chittenango High School and beating the Raiders 55-44.
Though young and still learning, Proctor had torn through the second half of the regular season, winning nine of 10 games, including a road conquest of Corcoran in the Feb. 27 sectional quarterfinals.
CBA saw all this and wasn't too impressed. Mostly, it wanted to take senior forward Mike Goodman and work him inside to exploit the size advantage he enjoyed over the Raiders' front line.
Sure enough, Goodman had six points in the first quarter, including an emphatic dunk, while the Brothers' intense defensive pressure forced Proctor into mistakes. As they went to the second quarter, CBA nursed an 18-9 lead.
By halftime, the margin was 28-17, but what kept CBA from getting too comfortable was the fact that Coleman got nailed for his second and third foul early in the third quarter.
Accustomed to seeing Goodman in foul trouble, the Brothers stayed cool, using its collective experience to match baskets with Proctor until Stefan Thompson's 3-poitner at the end of the third period made it 38-25.
Not giving up, Proctor saw Walkery Mills earn 15 points as the Raiders tried all it could down the stretch to make CBA work a bit.