These are exciting times for the Cicero-North Syracuse basketball teams, both of them well-poised to defend their respective Section III Class AA titles - and have some fun along the way.
Such was true for the boys Northstars Tuesday night when, in its last regular-season home game, it built a 20-point lead on Auburn, then fended off a late Maroons rally to prevail 76-65.
It was Senior Night for CNS's starting five - Zach Coleman, Elliott Boyce Jr., Riley Moonan, Dave Jackowski and Josh Williams. Once the pre-game festivities were out of the way, they proceeded to jump all over Auburn - Coleman in particular.
In an echo of his electrifying 33-point performance against West Genesee on Jan. 28, Coleman outscored the Maroons by himself in the first quarter, notching 15 points to Auburn's total of 14. Then junior Vaughndell Brantley stepped up, with nine points in the second quarter as CNS stretched it out to a 43-30 halftime lead.
Midway through the third period, the margin had grown to 54-34, thanks to a 9-0 Northstars run, and it looked to be over. Only Auburn disagreed, and in the next eight minutes it whittled away at that deficit, outscoring CNS 25-8 as Mike Granato (16 points), Nick Granato (15 points) and Conor Engle (12 points) led the charge.
Having not lost at home all season, CNS was bent on keeping that perfect mark, and those seniors kept their poise during Auburn's thrust. Then, with the score 62-59, Coleman delivered the decisive blows, hitting a free throw, then draining a wide-open 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:25 left, all but putting the Maroons away.
For the night, Coleman finished with 28 points. Boyce was solid, too, earning 14 points as Brantley gained 10 points and Moonan had a strong effort on the boards, getting 12 rebounds to go with his seven points.