From the time it started its season Dec. 5 against Westhill to the time it hosted Institute of Technology Central Thursday night, the Skaneateles boys basketball team had played five games in an eight-day span.
Somehow, the Lakers emerged from it with a 3-2 record and a sense that, perhaps, its worst performances are already behind them and that it can still make a case as a strong Section III Class B contender.
After beating Marcellus 59-41 with a fourth-quarter surge in the Carrier Dome on Dec. 9, the Lakers went to Chittenango two nights later and, once again, played its best down the stretch to fight past the Bears 39-34.
A rough second quarter saw Skaneateles fall behind Chittenango 25-18. By the end of the third quarter, though, the Lakers had caught up, 30-30, and its defense covered all sorts of scoring deficiencies as it held the Bears to four points in the final period to go in front.
When the Lakers did convert, Chris Knupp and Austin Gardner handled most of the production. Knupp had 15 points, nine of them from free throws, while Gardner added 13 points. Sean Cliff led Chittenango with 15 points.
Back home Thursday night to face ITC, the Lakers made it three wins in a row, pulling away in the fourth quarter in a 68-54 conquest of the Eagles.
All through the young season, Skaneateles had found it difficult to generate early offense. That finally changed here, the Lakers hurting ITC with a series of early baskets and bolting out to a 21-14 advantage.
To some degree, Skaneateles cooled off in the game’s middle stages, but the Eagles could not take full advantage, only closing the gap to 45-41 by the end of the third period.
Through the stretch, the Lakers slowly drew clear, aided by free-throw shooting vastly improved from the five-for-23 nightmare of the Westhill opener just a week earlier.
Knupp made eight foul shots, accounting for half of his 16 points. Gardner was just ahead of him, earning 18 points, while Bobby Leslie managed to earn seven of his 15 points at the line. Defensively, the Lakers kept ITC star Algernon Torrence in check, holding him to seven points as Lucas Irzarry (15 points) and Wanye Jones (10 points) led the Eagles’ efforts.
Skaneateles goes for four in a row Monday night at much-improved Jordan-Elbridge before a key Dec. 21 contest against visiting Cazenovia that precedes the holiday break.