It was just the sort of stunning, dramatic moment Kihary Blue would have loved, if only he were here to see it.
When Henninger boys basketball junior guard Quashwan Gainey heaved a 65-foot shot that banged off the glass and swished through the net at the end of the first half of Friday night's season opener against Christian Brothers Academy in the Peppino's Invitational, the Black Knights turned the game in its favor - and didn't stop until it had beaten the Brothers 66-61.
Henninger took the court still carrying heavy hearts 18 days after Blue, the school's star point guard and quarterback who led both the basketball and football teams to Section III Class AA championships, died at age 19 of a gunshot wound suffered while riding in a car in Syracuse Nov. 26.
Head coach Erik Saroney said his team needed to move ahead after all the time spent mourning and reflecting on Blue's life and death in the weeks prior to the opener.
"It was a relief to get on the court," he said. "We just needed to play."
With Blue's mother present, and his sister part of Henninger's cheerleading squad, the crowd observed a moment of silence in Blue's memory before the game tipped off.
The start proved shaky, as CBA led 7-0 within the game's opening minute. But the Black Knights only allowed one field goal the rest of the first quarter, spreading out its man-to-man defense and using its size to disrupt the Brothers' passing and force turnovers.
That trend continued into the second quarter, as Henninger led by as much as 11 points (25-14) before CBA went on a 14-3 run. With one second left in the half, Greg Thomson's free throws made it 31-28, and it looked to be a three-point margin going into the break.