True, the Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball team will not win back-to-back Section III Class AA championships. But it fought to the last breath trying to do so.
In a thrilling Class AA semifinal Tuesday night at LeMoyne College, the no. 2 seed Northstars nearly came back twice in the second half against no. 3 seed Henninger, only to see its brave bid denied in a 60-56 loss to the Black Knights.
So many things ended as a result of this loss, from CNS's title reign to its 12-game win streak to the sparkling high school careers of seniors Zach Coleman, Elliott Boyce Jr., Dave Jackowski, Riley Moonan and Josh Williams.
But the odds were long in the first place. To start with, Henninger had beaten CNS 59-55 back on Jan. 4, the last defeat the Northstars took in the regular season, and it had a size advantage at nearly every starting position.
Things were not made easier when a school-related suspension kept CNS's top reserve, Vaughndell Brantley, from taking the court against Henninger.
So, short-handed and with a smaller lineup, the Northstars quickly found itself in catch-up mode. Henninger eased its way to a 17-12 lead by the end of the first quarter and kept control the rest of the half, leaving CNS behind 31-24 going to the break.
By the late stages of the third period, the Northstars were down 40-30, and seemingly fading. Just as in that first meeting in January, Henninger was doing an effective job containing Coleman, who would only manage 11 points, and no one else was picking up the slack.
At just the right moment, though, CNS exploded, going on a 12-0 run to close the third quarter, mostly through big shots from Boyce and Moonan. Suddenly, with one period left the Northstars were up 42-40 and had Henninger reeling - or so it thought.