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Skaneateles boys take playoff opener at Phoenix

Lakers shake off late-season struggles with sectional win

Maybe that three-game losing streak the Skaneateles boys basketball team went through at the end of the regular season meant nothing at all.

For when the Section III Class B playoffs got underway Friday night, the no. 11 seed Lakers were reborn, as it went to no. 6 seed Phoenix and, by playing well down the stretch, pushed past the Firebirds 53-49.

While recent defeats to Institute of Technology Central (the OHSL Liberty National division regular-season champions) and East Syracuse-Minoa (a Class A opponent) were understandable, a 55-50 loss to Jordan-Elbridge last Tuesday raised all kinds of alarms.

The Lakers, to its credit, heard those alarms just in time, and did carry an edge of post-season experience over Phoenix, plus confidence that stemmed from beating the Firebirds 63-53 back on Jan. 16, four weeks before their playoff rematch.

Pete Knupp would set the night's tone, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter to send Skaneateles to a 15-8 lead. That would account for most of Knupp's eventual total of 14 points, though he would add another 3-pointer later in the game.

With Phoenix focusing its defense on Knupp, Bobby Leslie started to flourish, and the Lakers traded baskets with the Firebirds the rest of the half, taking a 31-23 edge to the break.

And that cushion would prove important, for Phoenix outplayed the Lakers in the third quarter, erasing most of that margin and only trailing by two, 39-37, going to the final period. Dylan Doupe, who finished with 20 points, led the Firebirds' efforts.

From that point on, every possession became important, Skaneateles clinging to its slim margin and Phoenix unable to catch up. It wasn't until Nick Palmer, who had not scored all night, made two free throws in the final seconds could the Lakers seal the win.

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