Should the East Syracuse-Minoa girls basketball team make a deep post-season run later this winter, it might point to Tuesday's game at Cortland as a crucial turning point.
Down by nine to the state-ranked Purple Tigers with one period to play, the Spartans made an inspired comeback and pulled out a 69-68 victory over the Purple Tigers to improve to 7-4 on the season.
ESM knew what Cortland would do, having played (and lost to them) back on Nov. 30, so it had to feel encouraged by a fast-paced first half where it basically kept up with the Purple Tigers, only trailing 33-32 at the break.
Then, it looked like Cortland would get away. Led by Courtney Tennant (26 points) and Maggie Brown (14 points), the Purple Tigers had a third-quarter outburst that left ESM trailing, 55-46, and staring at more disappointment against a big-named foe.
In response, the Spartans increased its pressure and, more importantly, finished plays on the other end. As a result, it chipped away at Cortland's margin in the final minutes before it caught up -- and passed them.
Olivia Luciani led the rally, continually getting open for 3-point shots and making six of them on her way to a career-best 20 points. Becky Teschler made a trio of treys as she put up 13 points, while Chelsea Medler worked inside for 18 points, including six successful free throws. Arnela Mesic had seven points and Mallory Buckley contributed six points.
Meanwhile, the ESM boys basketball team had its own exciting affair with Cortland, going to overtime before falling to the Purple Tigers 90-80.
They played at a reasonable pace in a 30-30 first half, but all that changed after the break as the Purple Tigers sped to a 54-48 lead, daring the Spartans to try and catch up.