Stefan Thompson was saddled with his fourth foul, mired in a long scoring drought, and seemingly unable to prevent the end of the Christian Brothers Academy boys basketball team's dramatic championship run.
Yet he stayed on the court for the entire homestretch of Saturday's Class AA regional final at Cicero-North Syracuse High School -- and when the big moment arose, Thompson was, once again, ready to deliver.
Thompson's 18-foot jumper with 14.5 seconds left turned out to be the winning basket as Syracuse CBA beat Albany CBA 50-45, earning its first trip to the state final four in Glens Falls since 2003.
"It feels great," senior Mike Goodman said. "We have worked hard in practice and on the court, and the hard work paid off."
Just seven days earlier, Thompson had put up 40 points, 21 of them in the fourth quarter, and delivered the pass to set up the winning basket as CBA rallied past Henninger in overtime to win the Section III Class AA title.
To add to his growing post-season legend, Thompson first had to overcome a long scoring drought that consumed more than two quarters and helped Albany CBA lead for much of the afternoon.
Then, with 5:33 left in regulation, Thompson got whistled for his fourth foul. With his team trailing 39-34, head coach Buddy Wleklinski chose not to take Thompson out, gambling that he could avoid that fifth foul.
"There was no option," Wleklinski said. "We were going to go down with what was there. We could have folded a few times, but our kids didn't lose their poise."
Indeed, with Mike Goodman, Troy Bullock and Pat Wiese all making key baskets, Syracuse CBA rallied to lead three times in those closing minutes, only to have Albany CBA tie it on each occasion.
With 46.7 seconds left and the game even again, 45-45, Wlekinski called time-out. On the ensuing play, Syracuse CBA worked the shot clock down until Goodman set up a perfect screen, leaving Thompson wide-open for his go-ahead shot.