Though only able to earn the no. 10 seed for the Section III Class B playoffs, the Marcellus boys basketball team still found itself in a situation where a trip to the semifinal round was within reach.
And sure enough, the Mustangs did reach that point, winning twice on the road in the early rounds, including a 55-50 conquest of no. 2 seed General Brown in Saturday's quarterfinal round, to earn a semifinal berth against defending state champion Westhill this Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Onondaga Community College.
Steeled by all that time spent facing high-quality OHSL Liberty division opponents, Marcellus immediately got to work against GB, who had bashed Canastota 72-35 in the opening round.
A steady first quarter produced a modest lead, but the Mustangs really seemed to seize control in the second period, outscoring the Lions 15-7 as its margin swelled to 32-20 going into the break.
GB was not about to wilt, though, as it made up most of the deficit in the third quarter, then caught up in the final period. When Nick Klusacek made two free throws with 2:49 left, the Lions had its first lead of the game at 49-48.
Moments later, though, Lions point guard Dallas Thomas fouled out. Without him, the Lions would see its offense dry up, giving Marcellus time to regain control.
Sure enough, with 40 seconds left Kyle Hastings worked inside for a lay-up - and was fouled. The ensuing free throw put the Mustangs up to stay, 51-49, as Carey Mielnicki hit a pair of crucial late free throws.
Hastings nearly had a double-double, earning 11 points and nine rebounds. Just ahead of him, three Mustangs -Steve Raven, Geoff Crysler and Nick Sinay - led with 14 points apiece, a near-perfect offensive balance.
The win at General Brown sets up a Class B semifinal round entirely composed of OHSL Liberty teams - Marcellus and Westhill on one side, Skaneateles and Bishop Grimes on the other (they play a night before the Mustangs and Warriors at OCC). The winners here go to Utica Memorial Auditorium next Saturday at 4:30 for the sectional final.