In basketball, more than in other team sports, a single, special player can elevate the status of everyone else around them, and alter that team’s fortunes for the better.
For the Cicero-North Syracuse girls basketball team that saw its eight-year reign as Section III Class AA champions end a season ago, having Amani Free return to the squad after a year at Long Island Lutheran just might trigger another title run.
Without Free, the Northstars were 8-12 a season ago and exited the sectional playoffs in the quarterfinals. With her, and with nearly everyone else back, C-NS is humming again.
For its season opener last Tuesday night, the Northstars visited Fulton and pounded the Red Raiders 72-23, doing most of that damage in the first three quarters as it accumulated a 60-14 advantage.
Free outscored Fulton all by herself, pouring in 27 points, but each of the 10 players that saw action got at least one field goal as Julia Rowe and Isabella Kingsley each had nine points, with Aniah Ingram adding seven points. Mackenzie White and Julianna Vassallo had five points apiece.
C-NS would work for another week before taking on Christian Brothers Academy in Tuesday’s home opener and then challenge defending sectional champion West Genesee Friday night.
Meanwhile, Liverpool had plenty of important stuff on its agenda, none more so than its weekend trip to Washington,D.C., where it would take part in the She Got Game Classic, a national tournament founded by WNBA great Tina Thompson.
In the opener of that tournament, the Warriors beat Gwynn Park (Maryland) 56-43, overcoming a slow start where it scored just five points in the opening period with a scoring rush just before halftime.
Then, with the issue still in doubt, Liverpool outscored Gwynn Park 20-6 in the fourth quarter, seeing Kyra Grimshaw put up one of the best games of her career, earning 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Jenna Wike had eight points, with Bella Barner adding six points. Barner, Michelle Lonczak (five points) and Marissa Pisegna (four points) all contributed off the bench as Lexi Emmi also got five points.
The only bad part of the trip was that Liverpool could not get in two games, the second one canceled when bad winter weather hit the nation’s capital.
Before departing, the Warriors first took on Rome Free Academy last Wednesday night, and put up its second impressive performance in as many games, pulling away to beat the Black Knights 73-44.
Already with an 18-12 lead through one period, Liverpool took charge by outscoring RFA 21-8 the rest of the half. It continued from there, Wike and Grimshaw each hitting on three 3-pointers and earning 17 points apiece.
Supporting them, Amanda Barnell put up 10 points, with Holly Sleeth getting seven points as Victoria Morgan had six points and Lonczak gained five points.