When the weather finally warmed up – and behaved – long enough for boys basketball to resume, Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool both had great opportunities to earn big victories, at home, against the two favorites in the Section III Class AA title race.
Neither of them would come through, though, as they both surrendered fourth-quarter leads in Wednesday night’s action and lost – the Northstars 58-51 to Fayetteville-Manlius, the Warriors 75-64 to defending champion Henninger.
This was, for C-NS, the lone shot at F-M in the regular season. The Hornets had started 6-0 before a Dec. 30 defeat to Maine-Endwell at the Stop-DWI Tournament in Binghamton, while C-NS had not played since beating then no. 9-ranked Webster Schroeder 72-68 in overtime on Dec. 27.
The long breaks for both teams inevitably led to a ragged, uneven contest with plenty of missed shots, whether it was the Hornets' struggles with outside shooting or the Northstars' inability to make a series of good looks from inside five feet.
Both sides saw its top paint presences get into foul trouble, too. C-NS's Ronnie Williams saw his minutes limited, and would foul out midway through the fourth quarter. F-M’s Cormac Bettinger was whistled for three fouls less than two minutes into the game and was never a factor.
Hornets senior John Schurman, despite hitting his first jump shot of the night, never found any sort of consistency, either. Still, he managed to lead F-M to a 24-17 lead late in the first half.
Then C-NS's star junior guard, Connor Evans, gave the home fans a jolt of energy, scoring six points in a 12-2 run to close the half, giving his side a 29-26 lead going to the break.
Even when the Hornets reclaimed the lead with a 9-0 third-quarter spurt, C-NS answered, and the two sides would go back and forth deep into the final period.