Cicero This was the time that many thought the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team would get caught, as West Genesee brought its 13-1 record into town Tuesday night's CNY Counties League National division first-place showdown and a belief that, at last, it was ready to take down the reigning champions.
As it turned out, though, the result was very familiar - a Northstars victory. And while the 52-38 decision had all kinds of low points for both sides, C-NS produced when it mattered - at the start to set the night's tone, and at the end when the Wildcats threatened to catch up.
Though the personnel has changed at C-NS and the roster might not be as deep or full of incandescent talent, what remains is a commitment, from both coach Eric Smith and his players, to dominate on the defensive side and let everything else work out from there.
Thus, from the opening tip, the Northstars used a variety of defensive looks to cause WG fits, especially its top player, 1,000-point senior Melissa Fumano, who did not score a point until the second quarter.
By then, C-NS was well out in front, having grabbed a 13-2 lead in the game's first six minutes. When the Wildcats tried to push back late in the period, McKayla Roberts hit a jumper just before the horn to make it 15-6 after one period.
The margin kept growing, as the Northstars had a 25-10 edge at one point late in the half and went to the break still enjoying a 26-14 lead. When the lead grew back to 15 points, 31-16, early in the third quarter, the game threatened to turn into a blowout.
But it didn't happen, largely because C-NS was not taking full advantage of its suffocating defense. Time and again, shots near the basket went off line, and when the Northstars were fouled, it struggled, too, missing 10 of its 20 attempts at the line.