No matter how times they got together this winter, it ended up the same -- the Fayetteville-Manlius girls basketball team would win, and Oswego would be disappointed.
The fourth and most important encounter came in last Friday night's Section III Class AA quarterfinal, where the no. 4 seed Hornets needed a career effort from Ali Pliszka to hold off the no. 6 seed Buccaneers 59-53.
With the win, F-M advanced to the AA semifinal Friday at 7:45 at Liverpool High School against top seed Cicero-North Syracuse, a rematch of last year's title game where the Hornets lost. The winner will play Corcoran or CBA in the 2010 edition of the finals March 6 at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Not only had the Hornets met Oswego four times this season (two tournaments plus a regular-season encounter), they had also played four times the previous year, making it eight meetings in two seasons.
Thus, everything was familiar -- including the Bucs' offensive schemes. F-M did a solid job shutting them down throughout the first half, but its own inconsistent production meant that the margin was just seven, 23-16, going into the break.
Oswego made good adjustments and, in the third quarter, began to break through for a series of baskets, more than doubling its output. F-M was just as good, though, and clung to a 38-35 lead with just one period left.
At this point, Pliszka really hit her stride. Long in the shadow of teammate Emily Trapani, Pliszka picked an opportune time to take charge of F-M's attack.
With the game close, and the Bucs determined to bottle up Trapani, Pliszka kept getting open all night, and hit 10 points in the fourth quarter alone to give her a new career high of 25, enough to pull the Hornets through.
Not that Trapani was quiet in any way. The Pace University-bound senior earned 21 points, nine of them from free throws, while Charlotte Beers earned six points. Oswego's Michelle Canale led her side with 20 points, while Michaela Auer (11 points) and Lindsay Johnson (10 points) also hit double figures.
A similar kind of effort, from Pliszka or somebody else, will be needed against CNS as Trapani will square off with the Northstars' 6-3 sophomore superstar, Breanna Stewart.