A fair amount of talent, along with the ability to perform at one's best when the pressure is greatest, has made the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team back-to-back Section III Class AA champions.
And bit of good fortune helped, too.
All those elements - the talent, the poise in the clutch, and one huge break - were present Saturday at Utica Memorial Auditorium when the Northstars beat Corcoran, 54-52, for the Class AA title.
Trailing by 11 at one point in the fourth quarter, CNS made it all the way back, then held on at the end as the Cougars had numerous chances to tie or pull ahead.
Not until Breanna Stewart landed one of her trademark blocks on Nadia Jackson's jump shot as time ran out could the Northstars celebrate a second title to add to the crown it won in 2009.
Still, it took what CNS head coach Eric Smith called a "really lucky break" to thwart Corcoran's quest to reclaim the title it won a year before the Northstars took over.
The Cougars were up, 48-37, having broken open a tight contest with two different 7-0 spurts in the third quarter. All through this, Corcoran point guard Coriesha Hickey handled the ball with ease and confidence, dashing past whatever the CNS defense threw at her.
"We couldn't stop her", Smith said.
True enough - but a cramp did stop Hickey, sending her to the sidelines midway through the fourth quarter, just as the Northstars were starting to eat away at that double-digit deficit.
Hickey did not return - and CNS took full advantage.
The 13-1 run that turned things around included two lay-ups from freshman Cara Gannett, who started in place of fellow freshman Abbey Timpano so that the Northstars could counter Corcoran's strong inside game.
A 3-pointer by Kelsey Mattice made it 49-48, and when Brittany Paul hit a lay-up with 2:57 to play, CNS had a 50-49 lead. The entire spurt consumed less than three minutes of clock.