SYRACUSE Connor Evans and Ronnie Williams may not have started with the Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball team, but the fact that they are there now is a big reason why the Northstars are making its way to the Carrier Dome to play for the Section III Class AA championship.
Evans, earning more than half of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, and Williams, controlling the paint and scoring most of his 18 points in the second half, led the way as C-NS put together a superb performance to oust top seed Fayetteville-Manlius 69-63 in Saturday night's AA semifinal at SRC Arena.
To many, F-M was a clear favorite for the title. After all, it was 17-2, had won nine games in a row (all by margins of 17 or more points), and featured, in senior guard John Schurman, the school's all-time leading scorer.
Yet the Northstars were not scared one bit of facing the Hornets. That's because, when these two sides had met Jan. 7, F-M prevailed 58-51, but C-NS did a superb job on the defensive end, wasting it by missing all kinds of short-range shots and turning the ball over 25 times.
Head coach John Haas said that his team knew that, if it could cut down the turnovers and make those inside conversions, it had a great chance to get the Hornets the second time around. And that's exactly what happened.
C-NS didn't flinch when Schurman hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first quarter to put his team in front 15-10. Instead, it simply protected the paint and forced F-M outside, and when those shots didn't fall, the Northstars pounced.
Williams, the transfer from Pulaski, began establishing himself with a three-point play late in the second quarter, which helped C-NS seize a 28-27 halftime lead as fellow forward Nick Antonello's eight first-half points also played a key role.