SYRACUSE A grand stage, and a deep desire not to start its season with a three-game skid, would serve the Skaneateles boys basketball team well.
The Lakers met up with long-time rival Marcellus Sunday as part of the Tip-Off Classic in the Carrier Dome, and a decisive 14-0 run in the fourth quarter would lead to a 59-41 victory over the Mustangs.
Beyond the thrill of playing on the same court as Syracuse University's basketball teams, the Lakers had other, more practical concerns for this game.
Having started 0-2 with defeats to Westhill and Syracuse Academy of Science, the Lakers needed to break that skid. Facing a Marcellus side that had also lost its first two games (to Cazenovia and Jordan-Elbridge) made it an urgent matter for both sides.
They played with that urgency - and intensity - throughout the first quarter. Marcellus led most of the way, but Austin Gardner's six points helped bring Skaneateles back into a 13-11 lead.
Each side was error-prone in the second period, and as a result, neither of them could make any sustained run or lead by more than a field goal. So it only figured that the game went to halftime in a 25-25 deadlock.
This air-tight battle continued into the third quarter, with five early lead changes. Again, no one could separate, and again when the horn sounded it was even, 37-37, turning it into an eight-minute game.
And it was there that Skaneateles finally took charge, with numerous contributors. Baskets by Gardner and Collin Jones pushed the Lakers in front 41-37. Ben Eppolito followed with three straight points, Chris Knupp hit a free throw, and Bobby Leslie got four points on a reverse lay-up and jumper before Knupp returned to hit two more free throws.
All the while, the Lakers' defense kept applying pressure, forcing Marcellus into rushed shots and turnovers. The Mustangs did not score for more than six minutes until Ben Powers' breakaway lay-up with 1:58 left, but the damage had been rendered.
Knupp would lead Skaneateles with 14 points, just ahead of Gardner, who poured in 13 points. Leslie finished with seven points.