While it took an entire winter to establish the Corcoran boys basketball team's credentials as a bona fide Section III Class AA title contender, it may have taken one impressive evening of work to establish the Cougars as the favorite to win it all.
With Martino Barletta, Riley Stroman and Brandon Reed all making major contributions to the cause, Corcoran went to 14-1, state-ranked Cicero-North Syracuse and put together an impressive 69-57 victory over the Northstars.
The Cougars' win left both teams at 14-2 - but it left Corcoran with a lot more confidence about what it could do down the road, including in the Class AA playoffs.
Part of the Cougars' strength is the fact that the big performance can come from multiple sources. Against Liverpool a week earlier (an 87-79 win), it was Marsean Brown pouring in 28 points, four of them in the final 90 seconds to help break a late 79-79 tie, and Algeron Torrence earning 16 points.
Against CNS, there would be no need for late heroics, because three different Cougars stepped in at different points to carry the load.
Barletta went first. Normally a shoot-first point guard whose range is beyond the 3-point arc, Barletta contributed 10 of his 20 points in the first quarter, allowing the Cougars to stay ahead of CNS most of the time.
Despite this, Corcoran carried a modest 21-16 lead when, midway through the second quarter, Stroman delivered the game's three biggest shots.
Within a span of less than two minutes, Stroman three times lined up beyond the 3-point arc - and hit all three shots, sending Corcoran's lead to 30-16. Overall, Stroman had 17 points, 11 of them in this period.
And the Cougars' defense was sensational, too, holding CNS without a field goal for nearly nine minutes in the first half on its way to a 32-21 halftime edge.