As it turned out, the Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball team would get a split of its two post-season rematches against foes determined to wrest the Section III Class AA crown from them.
Having beaten Utica Proctor on Dec. 17 in the Peppino's Invitational at Henninger, the Northstars could not repeat that effort Tuesday night at Christian Brothers Academy, taking a 58-55 loss to the Brothers - the team it beat in last year's sectional semifinals.
CBA's Greg 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.
Any game between CNS and CBA has added purpose because the Northstars' head coach, John Haas, played under Buddy 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.