Liverpool forward Kyle Caves (5) is met by two Nottingham defenders in a drive to the basket during last Friday’s game, where the Warriors defeated the Bulldogs 57-55 in their first meeting since last March’s Section III Class AA final.
Once upon a time – okay, it was just a few weeks ago – the Liverpool boys basketball team was in an 0-5 hole and its neighbors from Cicero-North Syracuse were not much better.
Now, both teams are in very different places, the Warriors having seen its new lineup click late in December and the Northstars, once 2-4, having won six consecutive games to lock down a Section III Class AA playoff berth.
Liverpool’s turnaround had started when it beat C-NS Dec. 18. And it continued with three more wins in the next four games before last Tuesday’s visit from Henninger, where the Warriors, still without Kyle Butler in the lineup, got a 63-56 victory over the Black Knights.
A strong first half keyed Liverpool’s effort as it steadily worked its way to a 33-24 lead. And even when held to nine points in the third quarter, the Warriors made sure Henninger didn’t make up much ground.
Hanging on late, Liverpool got incredible scoring balance as all eight players that saw minutes scored at least six points, and none had more than Matt Senecal’s total of 10 points.
Alex Ruston got nine points, with four different players – Jacob Works, Kyle Caves, Romeo Clarke and Jake Piseno – getting eight points apiece. Ryan Valentine and Nick Klein each had six points.
C-NS had survived close calls with Henninger, plus Shaker and Baldwinsville, early in its win streak, and did so again last Tuesday night at Nottingham, finding a way to edge past the Bulldogs 52-51.
Again, the Northstars’ defense played a starring role, holding Nottingham to nine points in the second quarter as the visitors assumed a 29-24 halftime lead.
All through the game’s homestretch, the Bulldogs had ample opportunities to go in front, yet could not pull it off, despite 21 points from Jaden Ezomo and 12 points from Khai Pugh.
Justin DelVecchio matched Ezomo’s total of 21 points, adding eight rebounds to pace the C-NS attack. Anthony Tricarico had 13 points and seven rebounds, while Nick DeMonte had eight points, five rebounds and three steals. Kyle Haas got six points.
Now a win at Fayetteville-Manlius would assure C-NS’s place in the sectional tournament with a month to spare, and it did clinch that spot with relative ease, nearly perfect on defense in the first half of a 59-42 victory over the Hornets.
F-M had just two points in the first quarter and only five points in the second period, only breaking out of its slump in the second half, long after the Northstars had established a comfortable lead.
C-NS spread its production around, led by DelVecchio, who had 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Brayden McLean added nine points as Haas got eight points and seven rebounds. Zach Turtschin had seven points. DeMonte added five points and five rebounds.
As that went on, Liverpool had its own reunion with Nottingham, the first time these two had played since last March’s thrilling sectional Class AA final at the Carrier Dome that the Warriors won en route to the state championship.
Now, as then, Liverpool won a close one, edging Nottingham 57-55 as, trailing going to the fourth quarter, the Warriors outscored the visitors 15-10 to complete a rally after the Bulldogs led 18-8 through one period.
Butler returned to the lineup and contributed 14 points, just behind Caves’ total of 15 points. Ruston again had nine points and Senecal had eight points. Nottingham lost despite having Mazi Jackson (16 points), Ezomo, Dominick Dickson (11 points each) and Nykis Edwards (10 points) each get to double figures.
Without any rest, Liverpool was on the court again Saturday against Rochester McQuaid (Section V) at SRC Arena, and here the Warriors cooled off, taking a 65-58 defeat to the Knights.
McQuaid built a 43-36 lead through three quarters and held on during a high-scoring stretch drive despite Ruston leading Liverpool with 17 points. Works had 10 points, with Valentine getting nine points and Caves adding eight points.
Still, at 6-7 overall, Liverpool has plenty to be happy about going into a week where it could avenge early-season defeats to Baldwinsville and West Genesee on its home floor as C-NS gets its own chance at payback for an earlier defeat to West Genesee before hosting Corcoran on Friday.