Cicero A new wave of top performers, such as McKayla Roberts and Elizabeth Miles, is tasked with maintaining the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team's hold over the local Class AA ranks.
Thus far, the task has proven a successful one, as the Northstars handed hot-starting Baldiwnsville its first defeat of the season Wednesday night, prevailing 61-37 in its CNY Counties League opener.
C-NS had not played for 10 days, since its second-place finish in the Dec. 7-8 Oneonta Tournament. And as head coach Eric Smith pointed out, it's a young team, with two sophomores (Roberts and Samantha Tortora) and a junior (Emilee Norris) in the starting five and plenty of other underclassmen, including an eighth-grader (Amani Free), in the rotation.
As the Northstars went through extended practice time in the last month, B'ville had roared to a 5-0 start, mixing in strong inside play from the likes of Rachael Miller and Riley Carlucci with solid guard play from Emily Pascale and Hope DeFazio.
Right away, though, it was apparent that, while the Bees have closed a good portion of the gap with C-NS, it remains in pursuit of the Northstars - just like any other local AA challenger.
Never trailing, C-NS scored the game's first seven points and had a 20-7 lead by the early part of the second quarter, and the reasons were twofold.
On the defensive end, the Northstars applied half-court pressure, never letting the Bees' guards get comfortable. As a result, by the time B'ville did get open shots, inside and outside, it rushed them, leading to crucial misses. Pascale, in particular, was contained, managing just four points, a season low.
"I'm pleased with the way we played defensively," said Smith.
Meanwhile, C-NS was steady and productive from the start on the offensive end, anchored by Roberts, whose deft dribbling skills led to lots of open looks - and conversions. Smith calls her a "heady player", and her teammates fed off Roberts' energy throughout the game.