: Cicero-North Syracuse forward Lukas Merluzzi (25) challenges CBA’s Sean Miller on a drive to the basket in last Friday’s game. Merluzzi had six points in the Northstars’ 52-36 victory, all part of a 6-0 start.
While local boys basketball attention mostly falls on Liverpool due to its recent success, Cicero-North Syracuse is quite eager to carve out a spotlight of its own.
Absent from last year’s Section III Class AA playoffs, the Northstars, by the time last week’s action had ended, was 6-0, nearly matching its entire win total from 2016-17.
C-NS won its fourth in a row last Tuesday night against visiting Rome Free Academy, who had surrendered a 20-point lead and lost on a last-second shot to Fayetteville-Manlius three days earlier at the Peppino’s Invitational.
No late comeback was needed here, but the Northstars beat the Black Knights 81-73 with a strong second-half push.
RFA had rallied to tie it, 35-35, going into halftime, but C-NS went back in front in the third quarter, withstanding all of the Black Knights’ charges by having five players score in double figures.
Riley Hogan hit on five 3-pointers and finished with 21 points, adding five rebounds. Nick DeMonte had 14 points and seven rebounds, with Jaysaun Gunn getting 11 points, five rebounds and five assists.
A.J. Forney notched a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds as Lukas Merluzzi got 10 points and five assists. Alex Gray added six points and seven rebounds as RFA, in defeat, got 23 points from Ethan Powell and 21 points from T.J. Behlin.
Now, on Friday night, C-NS welcomed Christian Brothers Academy, a game that always carries extra meaning because Northstars head coach John Haas is a CBA alum and member of that school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
Despite a rough start, the Northstars beat the Brothers 52-36, trailing for most of the first half but then catching up and then getting in front, 22-20, when Justin DelVecchio tipped in a basket right before the halftime horn.
But the getaway didn’t happen until C-NS held CBA without a point for more than six minutes, a drought that spanned the third and fourth quarters.
Gunn picked up the burden on the other side of the court, earning most of his 17 points in the second half as he added five rebounds. Mere had eight points, three rebounds and three assists, with Gray adding seven points. Merluzzi and DelVecchio had six points apiece and Forney contributed seven rebounds.
C-NS would go for six in a row on Saturday against Corcoran at Henninger High School, part of the Syracuse City School District Basketball Invitational.
It was also the Salt City Athletic Conference Metro division opener, and C-NS pulled it out, 64-54, again starting slow as the Cougars zoomed to an 8-2 lead, only to have the Northstars catch up by the end of the first quarter.
During the second period, the Northstars took charge, with Gunn’s half-court shot at the horn finding the net to give C-NS a 39-26 edge. But Corcoran fought back, chipping away at the margin until the Cougars only trailed by three, 55-52, as time wound down.
Merluzzi stepped up, hitting a big jumper to make it 57-52, and then C-NS, who had struggled at the foul line throughout the early part of the season, turned that around, making seven of eight free throws in the final minute to put the game away.
Mere finished with 14 points, four rebounds and three assists, leading a deep, well-balanced attack as Forney chipped in with 13 points and eight rebounds. Merluzzi had nine points and Hogan got eight points and six rebounds as Kyle Cody got seven points.
Meanwhile, Liverpool, who had routed Bishop Grimes in its Dec. 2 opener, returned to action during a weekend trip to Rochester, where it opened by defeating Rochester East (Section V) 79-62.
Again, the Warriors’ depth was on display as 10 different players earned at least one point, which helped Liverpool build a 40-26 halftime advantage, something it protected the rest of the way.
Still, it was Nas Johnson at the forefront, earning a double-double as he got 22 points and 12 rebounds. Charles Pride had 11 points, six rebounds and seven assists as Nick Klein and Allen Willmes each got nine points and Willmes added six rebounds. Noah Issakainen had eight points and Kyle Butler got seven points.
A day later, against Elmira (Section IV), Liverpool moved to 3-0, putting away the Express 68-52 mostly on the basis of a first-half blitz on both ends.
Not only did the shots fall, but the Warriors’ defense smothered Elmira, so by halftime Liverpool enjoyed a 44-18 advantage, and would continue to control matters even though Pride was held to just two points.
Johnson again led the charge, finishing with 23 points and adding eight rebounds and four assists. Willmes stood out, too, his 15 points including six free throws as Joe DeSocio gained 10 points. Issakainen finished with six points.