SYRACUSE This really was supposed to be the year where the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team, shrugging off 59 years of struggles and frustrations, rose up and earned a Section III Class AA championship.
But when they tip off that title game Saturday night at the Carrier Dome, the Hornets will, again, be merely spectators, having seen another stellar season end in the AA semifinals, this time with a 69-63 defeat to Cicero-North Syracuse Saturday night at SRC Arena.
Just like 2013, when F-M could not parlay its top seed into a trip to the finals, the dream of a championship got dashed two wins short, the Northstars matching what Utica Proctor did when it beat the Hornets 68-61 in the semifinals a year ago at Le Moyne College.
Even though F-M was favored for the title, the Northstars were not scared one bit. That's because, when these two sides had met Jan. 7, the Hornets 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.
Northstars 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 John 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, grabbing the lead late in the second quarter. Despite Sean Brown’s 3-pointer, the Hornets trailed, 28-17, at the break.
A big moment came late in the third quarter. F-M trailed, 40-34, when it reeled off seven straight points to take a 41-40 lead. Haas called a time-out, and immediately after Williams converted an inside lay-up and Brian DeMonte sank a 3-pointer right before the period ended.