SYRACUSE Kavon Delee had the look, from 20 feet out, and he took it, a 3-point attempt that, one way or another, would decide Sunday night's Section III Class AA championship game at the Carrier Dome between Henninger and Utica Proctor.
The shot was right on line - but just a fraction strong, clanging off the rim. And with that, the Black Knights lost, 46-44, to the Raiders, who avenged last year's title-game defeat to Henninger and earned its first sectional title since 2008.
As the buzzer sounded, Proctor's players and fans, who had suffered agonizing title-game defeats to Henninger (in overtime) in 2011 and Cicero-North Syracuse in 2010, embraced and screamed in joy. The Black Knights' players were close to inconsolable.
"These kids put their heart and soul into the program," said Henninger head coach Erik Saroney. "When it ends, it's really emotional."
In that closing sequence, Black Knights point guard Tevin Chisholm drove to the basket and had to make a split second decision - either to take a close-up shot to tie and force overtime, or kick it out to the left wing, where Delee was stationed.
Saroney said that either option was considered in the time-out before play resumed. As it turned out, Chisholm passed it and, despite a Proctor defender in his face, Delee let the decisive shot fly.
"I thought he had made it," said Saroney. "But he didn't."
It marked the fourth straight year that the AA final was in doubt until the final possession of regulation, a tribute, if nothing else, to Henninger's resilience as it fought back from an eight-point second-half deficit.
Given their close contests through the years (including last year's sectional final, won by the Black Knights in overtime) and their regular-season split, it was no surprise that the early stages featured close, physical play and a struggle for every basket.