Despite two losses in less than a week, the goal remains the same for the Syracuse Academy of Science basketball team.
"Our dream is to get to the Section III final," SAS coach Onur Gokce said. "We don't want to be arrogant but that's what I try to keep them focused on as we go through this season."
After enjoying its best start in school history at 5-0, the Atoms stumbled against two quality teams during the holiday break.
SAS lost to Watertown IHC, 75-53, in the first round of the Charlie Bridge Tournament at Sackets Harbor on Dec. 28. The Atoms suffered their second loss to Tully, 57-52, at the Coaches vs. Cancer Patriot Division Challenge Saturday at Onondaga Community College.
Although the Atoms, a fourth-year program, competes in the predominantly Class C Patriot Division, they are a Class D school for the post-season. SAS coach Gokce believes he has all the pieces to make a deep playoff run come February.
"People keep asking what difference is this year," Gokce said. "It's because they are seniors. They are ready to play. They are stronger and more mature."
The Atoms started two seniors, Lavell Ellick and Jamaal Guins, against Tully. Another senior starter, Yusef Jones, sat out his last game of a four-game suspension for disciplinary reasons.
"Lavell is a good player," Gokce said. "The last two years, he's been our top scorer."
The game against state-ranked Tully proved to be another solid test for the Atoms as they prepare for the post-season. Faced with a 13-point deficit early in the second quarter, SAS rallied to make it a tight game.
Powered by a 16-2 run, the Atoms took their first lead of the game, 27-26, on a pair of Ellick free throws at 2:25 in the second. Tully managed to salvage a 30-29 halftime edge on a jumper by Connor Carroll.