Cicero In the decade-long history of the Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball team's Holiday Classic, it had never met its main rival - and after Friday night's events, might not want to do so again.
Liverpool came into the Northstars' gym and survived a close, tense battle to prevail 67-62 in overtime and take the first-place trophy from the hosts, who won it each of the last two years.
This is getting to be a habit for the Warriors. Except for its Dec. 11 loss to Utica Proctor, it has not only beaten everyone else en route to a 5-1 start, it has done so with exceptional play in the clutch.
"We've shown some mental toughness the last couple of weeks," said Liverpool head coach Matt Jacob.
As usual, senior point guard Mike Russo, named the tournament's MVP after scoring 22 points in the title game, was at the center of affairs. It was, after all, Russo's scoring frenzy late in the third quarter of Thursday night's opening-round game against West Genesee that put the Warriors in front for good as it knocked off the previously unbeaten Wildcats 74-65.
Now, against a C-NS side that had shaken off an 0-3 start by winning three in a row (including a 66-56 decision over Class A power New Hartford in the tournament's opening round), the Warriors again showed it could perform its best in a high-pressure situation.
Through all of regulation, neither team had a lead larger than six points. C-NS was in front most of the way, but late in the fourth quarter Russo's 3-pointer nudged the Warriors ahead 48-47.
Quickly, the Northstars recovered and gained a 54-50 edge, but saw it shaved to 54-52 on Russo's pair of free throws with 1:17 left. After Mike Lumia's shot missed the mark, the Warriors grabbed the rebound with 28.5 seconds to play and called a time-out.