With two more wins in the first full week of January, the Manlius-Pebble Hill boys basketball team did something that, in recent years, was difficult to fathom – earn a spot in the Section III playoffs.
The Trojans are now 8-3, and the playoff-clinching win took place Thursday night as MPH’s defense again seized the spotlight in a 54-27 victory over Port Byron.
At one point, the Panthers led, 13-8, but from the second quarter onward the Trojans shut things down, getting a 20-18 lead by halftime and, in the second half, pulling far away as it thumped Port Byron in a 34-9 manner.
Dan Byrnes again proved difficult to contain, mixing in 21 points and 14 rebounds, while Joey Cerio had 12 points and four rebounds. Sam Woodward had eight points, with Duncan Morrison contributing six points.
MPH hit the halfway point of the regular season at 7-2 after rolling last Monday night to a 53-36 victory over Waterloo.
Mostly, the Trojans won this game in the first half as its defense keeping Waterloo off the board. Leading 33-11 at the break, MPH eased up a bit in the third quarter, but never saw any real danger.
Byrnes led the way, pouring in 24 points, including seven successful free throws. Joey Cerio and Rex Lin helped out, each getting seven points, while Chris King and Jon Cerio finished with six points apiece.
But the Trojans’ five-game win streak ended on Wednesday, at Weedsport, where it gave the Warriors quite a scare before squandering a late lead in a 58-53 defeat.
Byrnes helped MPH erase an early deficit as it sneaked in front, 25-24, by halftime, and maintained that lead throughout the third quarter as Byrnes continued to work his total to 31 points and Joey Cerio, with 13 points, provided ample support.
Yet Weedsport had its own star in J.J. O’Connor, and with O’Connor pouring in 24 points, Weedsport took charge in the fourth quarter, outscoring MPH 20-11 to move ahead for good. Roman Blasi, with 14 points, and Josh Armstrong, with eight points, gave O’Connor ample support.