About the only thing that could keep the Bishop Grimes boys basketball team from returning to the Section III Class B-1 finals with 11 consecutive wins was something unexpected that gave the opposition a big lift.
Which is exactly what Marcellus got last Friday night at Onondaga Community College as one of its star players made an earlier-than-expected comeback from injury that played a huge role in the end of the Cobras' season during a 63-60 overtime thriller.
When Grimes won at Marcellus on Jan. 23, the Mustangs were without Will Fiacchi, the team's leading scorer until a stress fracture in his lower leg, suffered earlier that month, sidelined him. It was thought that Fiacchi's season was over.
Yet Fiacchi came back just in time to face Grimes, coming off the bench, and his mere presence jolted the Mustangs to a higher level of performance.
With Grimes ahead late in the first half, Marcellus guard Dan Heil started getting hot from the outside, hitting on three consecutive 3-pointers to turn things around and put the Cobras in a 33-28 deficit going to the break.
All through the second half, the Cobras stayed within sight, even though Heil was working his way to 22 points and Fiacchi, in his limited minutes, earned nine points and seven rebounds.
As regulation time wound down, Grimes still trailed 56-53, but Mike Stone got free for a 3-pointer in the final seconds that tied it, 56-56, and sent the game to overtime. Such a shot can demoralize many lesser opponents.
Marcellus stayed strong, though, and kept every Cobras player other than Stone off the board in the four minutes of OT. Down by three as time ran out, Grimes could not get the tying basket again, and its season was over.
Stone finished with 20 points, while Steve Dillmore gained 10 points. Kujcok Ater had nine points, with Mike Sugamosto and Joe Basla each getting six points. For the Mustangs, Will Nolan had 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Finishing with a mark of 17-5, Grimes will see Dillmore, Basla, Killian Hartough and Zach Vaught depart. Yet Stone is just a sophomore, as is Sugamosto, so they'll be back in 2009-10, as will Ater and Antron Irby, and it should keep Grimes on the short list of title contenders.