SYRACUSE With purpose and with heavy hearts, both of Cicero-North Syracuse's basketball teams swept to victories in Sunday's Holiday Tip-Off Classic in the Carrier Dome.
The defending state Class AA champion girls Northstars opened its title defense with a 61-19 romp over rival Liverpool, this right after the CNS boys held off West Genesee 61-52 for its first win of the season.
Far more than basketball occupied the minds of everyone at CNS on this day, due to the car accident on Thursday night that would, three days later, take the life of senior Taylor Fleming.
In Fleming's honor, both of the basketball teams wore the initials "TF" in marker on pieces of tape attached to their jerseys, and a moment of silence was observed before the girls game.
This was also a large-scale showcase for Breanna Stewart, the nation's top-ranked senior, who is headed to the University of Connecticut next fall. In fact, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma watched the game in person, drawing no small amount of attention.
For CNS, the game was simple enough. Returning four starters (Stewart, Brittany Paul, Rachel Bowles and Abbey Timpano) from last season was imposing enough. Cara Gannett, as Kelsey Mattice's successor at point guard, wasn't much of a drop-off, either.
Liverpool, who had started 1-1, was overwhelmed. It was 19-0 before the Warriors made a basket, which was a Jacy Kocan 3-pointer in the last minute of the first quarter. CNS expanded the margin to 34-7 by halftime and continued to have control long after the matter was decided.
Stewart had another double-double, but it was historic. Her 11 rebounds, to go with 17 points, put her past 1,000 rebounds for her career - 1,007, to be exact. Also, Stewart's deft passing led to baskets for Timpano, who had 13 points, and Paul, who got 10 points.