Circumstances are ideal for the Christian Brothers Academy boys basketball team when two things happen - when it can enforce its defensive will on an opponent, and when Greg Thomson can take over in the paint.
Both things took place Tuesday night in the Brothers' home opener, when it toppled defending Section III Class AA champion Cicero-North Syracuse 58-55 and atoned, at least a bit, for losing to the Northstars in last year's sectional semifinals.
Thomson finished with a team-high 19 points, nine of them coming in the fourth quarter as the Brothers withstood all kinds of CNS runs and, just as importantly, made the Northstars work hard for every single point.
"We're still trying to figure out who we are," said head coach Buddy Wleklinski. "But our kids did a good job defensively."
Any game between CBA and CNS has added purpose because the Northstars' head coach, John Haas, played under Wleklinski for the Brothers in the late 1980s, ultimately earning a spot in the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.
For their latest encounter, CBA took a while to get on track, not scoring in the game's first 3:21. But CNS only managed four points in that span, then had just one field goal the rest of the first quarter as the Brothers bolted to a 15-6 lead.
Wleklinski said that his team's primary defensive task to take away CNS's perimeter shooting - which it did, as the Northstars managed just two successful 3-pointers, and neither happened until the fourth quarter.
Pace was just as important, though - for when CNS started to establish its fast-break game in the second quarter, the Brothers' lead vanished, and the Northstars even inched ahead 18-17 when Zach Coleman converted an inside basket.
CBA countered with a 12-0 spurt, including timely 3-pointers from Andy Drescher and Brian Anderson, and took a 29-20 lead to the half. Once again, CNS would hang in there, getting the last six points of the third period to move within one, 40-39, with one quarter left.