Long gone are the days where the Cicero-North Syracuse boys basketball team settled for nice regular seasons and token playoff appearances.
Now the Northstars are making regular forays deep into the Section III Class AA tournament, returning to the semifinals again after Friday night's 59-51 win over Oswego in the AA quarterfinals.
C-NS had the no. 5 seed because the no. 4 seed Buccaneers beat them 62-57 back on Jan. 6 on the Northstars' home court. This meant that the sectional rematch would take place on Oswego's home court, seemingly adding to the challenge.
However, since that time the Northstars had reeled off seven straight wins. Just as importantly, it went into the game with far more playoff experience than the Bucs, and an ability to make changes if something wasn't working out.
Energized from the opening tip, Oswego applied full-court pressure, causing 10 C-NS turnovers in the first quarter alone, which led to points on the other end and a 14-8 deficit for the visitors.
Two things changed, though, as the second quarter got underway. First, the Northstars started taking care of the ball, as it would only get seven more turnovers the rest of the night.
Second, coach John Haas switched up his team's defense, going to a classic 2-3 zone. Suddenly, the Bucs weren't able to find the open lanes to the basket that it had early in the contest.
Having regrouped, C-NS reeled off a decisive 16-0 run that covered most of the second period. Overall, it outscored Oswego 17-4 in that period to take a 25-18 lead to the break.
Now it was the Bucs' turn to attempt a rally, hanging close in the third quarter until back-to-back 3-pointers from Mike Thompson (he would finish with a game-high 19 points) trimmed C-NS's margin to 40-37 going to the final period.