Despite fabulous regular-season marks, neither of the Fayetteville-Manlius basketball teams will enter the Section III Class AA playoffs with the high burden of expectations.
For the boys Hornets, who earned a 15-3 record and a no. 3 seed, the challenge will be to, perhaps, overcome regular-season defeats to long-time powers Utica Proctor and Henninger to claim a first sectional title since 1955.
And the F-M girls, who are 16-2, are a no. 2 seed, but linger in the gigantic shadow of three-time defending sectional champion (and reigning state AA champion) Cicero-North Syracuse.
Both sides go there holding sustained win streaks – the F-M boys with four wins in a row, the girls having claimed 10 consecutive victories following a 72-32 defeat to C-NS on Jan. 3.
The boys Hornets’ week started last Tuesday with a trip to Auburn, where it showed poise and confidence in the homestretch and pulled away to beat the Maroons 65-54.
Ahead 20-10 after a strong first period against a Maroon side it beat 59-53 in mid-December, F-M nearly saw that lead vanish by halftime, Auburn pulling within 30-28. They remained on close terms until the fourth quarter, when F-M, with a well-balanced attack and solid free-throw shooting, got clear.
John Schurman earned seven of his 17 points at the foul line. Tomer Nesher, with 15 points, was close behind, while freshmen Jake Wittig and T.J. Wheatley each had 10 points. Kyree Rufus (20 points) and Trent Ward (16 points) led Auburn’s efforts.
Friday’s regular-season finale, against Baldwinsville, brought some early stress for the Hornets, but a decisive second quarter led to a 71-57 win over the Bees.
Trailing 15-13 after one period, F-M turned up its level of play on both ends, outscoring B’ville 19-4 the rest of the half and nursing that lead the rest of the night.