Mar 02, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
True, the Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball team will not win back-to-back Section III Class AA championships. But it fought to the last breath trying to do so.
In a thrilling Class AA semifinal Tuesday night at LeMoyne College, the no. 2 seed Northstars nearly came back twice in the second half against no. 3 seed Henninger, only to see its brave bid denied in a 60-56 loss to the Black Knights.
So many things ended as a result of this loss, from CNS’s title reign to its 12-game win streak to the sparkling high school careers of seniors Zach Coleman, Elliott Boyce Jr., Dave Jackowski, Riley Moonan and Josh Williams.
But the odds were long in the first place. To start with, Henninger had beaten CNS 59-55 back on Jan. 4, the last defeat the Northstars took in the regular season, and it had a size advantage at nearly every starting position.
Things were not made easier when a school-related suspension kept CNS’s top reserve, Vaughndell Brantley, from taking the court against Henninger.
So, short-handed and with a smaller lineup, the Northstars quickly found itself in catch-up mode. Henninger eased its way to a 17-12 lead by the end of the first quarter and kept control the rest of the half, leaving CNS behind 31-24 going to the break.
By the late stages of the third period, the Northstars were down 40-30, and seemingly fading. Just as in that first meeting in January, Henninger was doing an effective job containing Coleman, who would only manage 11 points, and no one else was picking up the slack.
At just the right moment, though, CNS exploded, going on a 12-0 run to close the third quarter, mostly through big shots from Boyce and Moonan. Suddenly, with one period left the Northstars were up 42-40 and had Henninger reeling – or so it thought.
As soon as the final period started, the Black Knights hit back with a 12-0 spurt of its own. Two free throws from Markell Stith tied it 42-42, and Marquies Young’s dunk pushed Henninger back in front. Fired up by this, Henninger saw Kavon Delee hit consecutive 3-pointers and Tommie Spinner put in a rebound basket.
Again trailing by double digits, 52-42, CNS again fought back, sparked by Moonan’s third 3-pointer. With the score 58-53, Moonan made a free throw and Williams made a steal on the inbounds pass that led to his basket with 23.2 seconds left, making it 58-56.
CNS quickly fouled, and the Black Knights missed the front end of a one-and-one. Given a chance to tie it or take the
lead, the Northstars instead saw an errant pass lead to a turnover, the team’s 19th of the night. Spinner this time made the free throws with 7.5 seconds left to seal Henninger’s trip to the sectional finals.
Boyce, buoyed by five 3-pointers, led CNS with 18 points, while Moonan had 13 points and Jackowski, fresh off his 25-point effort in the quarterfinals against Liverpool, got 12 points. Delee (18 points), Young (15 points) and Spinner (14 points) accounted for most of Henninger’s production.
Before all this, the CNS girls, stoutly backing up its no. 1 seed in Class AA, took no. 5 seed Christian Brothers Academy apart in a 75-26 romp during its sectional semifinal.
Bent on settling things early, CNS applied full-court pressure and, after allowing the game’s first basket, promptly outscored the Brothers 23-2 the rest of the period.
By halftime, the margin was 38-10, yet CNS pressed on and, at least on the offensive end, made CBA pay dearly for its extra attention to Breanna Stewart, who still managed 18 points.
Brittany Paul got open on the perimeter and sank four 3-pointers, finishing with 15 points overall. Abbey Timpano stepped up, too, earning a season-best 14 points as Kelsey Mattice added 10 points and Cara Gannett got eight points.
By contrast, no CBA player scored in double figures, as Marisa Romeo finished with nine points. Kelsey Johnson (seven points) and Ellen Voorheis (six points) were close behind.
CNS will meet no. 3 seed Utica Proctor in Sunday’s final at 5:30 at Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Raiders, led by Pittsburgh-bound senior Brianna Kiesel, beat Fayetteville-Manlius 55-39 in the other semifinal on Tuesday.