In the immediate aftermath of the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team's 66-47 victory at Fayetteville-Manlius, fans from both sides, especially younger girls, ran up and had their friends take pictures of them standing next to Breanna Stewart.
Stewart had, once again, earned the extra attention. The All-American junior center burned the Hornets, who entered the night with a 7-1 record, for 33 points, plus a fair amount of rebounds, blocked shots, steals and other hustle plays that kept F-M from getting too close.
As CNS has risen to the top of the local Class AA ranks, it has largely done so at the Hornets' expense. The Northstars beat F-M in both the 2009 Section III finals and in last year's sectional semifinals.
Given the records of both teams this year, it's likely they could reunite in the post-season, so it was vital for CNS to reaffirm its dominance - and for F-M to show that it wasn't completely intimidated. In a way, they both succeeded in their respective missions.
Pushing the tempo from the start, CNS used its active defense to harass F-M all over the court. Eventually, that paid off as, with a 10-0 run that bridged the first and second quarters, it pulled away to a 26-10 lead, threatening to make it a rout.
Yet the Hornets made sure the rout never materialized, even though two starters, Ali Pliszka and Charlotte Beers, had three fouls apiece in the first half. Pliszka had six of her 18 points late in the first half as part of an 8-2 run that cut the Northstars' margin to 35-25 at the break.
Gradually, CNS restored its lead through several factors, including the aggressive play of Brittany Paul, who harassed F-M's guards on one end and, on the other end, delivered 17 points, six of them in the fourth quarter. Kelsey Mattice chimed in with 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, and capped her night with a behind-the-back pass to set up Paul's final basket.