Basketball champs split close sectional semis

Two city basketball teams that were defending Section III Class AA champions and top seeds in the 2009 editions of the sectional tournament entered the semifinal round last Friday night against Fayetteville-Manlius - but only one kept its season going.

Henninger's boys team, pushed to overtime again by the Hornets, pulled out a 59-55 victory at LeMoyne College. At the same time, the Corcoran girls saw a nine-point second-half lead slip away in a 39-36 loss to F-M at Liverpool High School.

By winning, Henninger advances to the last Class AA title game to be played at Manley Field House before it becomes a full-time Syracuse University training facility. The Black Knights face Christian Brothers Academy, a team it lost two twice in the regular season, Saturday at 2:30.

When the Black Knights played at F-M Feb. 10, it trailed through most of regulation, but rallied in the fourth quarter and, in overtime, beat the Hornets 69-62.

The sequel would prove just as exciting, with the difference being that neither side would ever build a big lead. They traded baskets throughout the first half, with better defense involved, as F-M sneaked in front 25-24 at the break.

Henninger reclaimed the lead in the third quarter, only to have F-M rally and go in front late in regulation, 52-50. Jermaine Taylor's basket with 46 seconds left tied it at 52-52, and when the Hornets could not convert a possible game-winner, the teams were headed to overtime again.

Much of the four minutes of OT was a stalemate, too, and they were still tied, 58-58, when Christian Smith struck the crucial blow, a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left. F-M could not answer, and Kihary Blue's free throw sealed the win.

Taylor, with 12 points, led a balanced attack where Blue and James Bardenett each got 11 points and Chris Gainey earned nine points. Smith added seven points. The Black Knights kept F-M star Brian Zapisek (13 points) from getting hot, though Zapisek's teammates, Jack Giles and Erik Mueller, each had 14 points.

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