Liverpool For only a few hours, there was doubt as to whether the Fayetteville-Manlius boys basketball team would land the top seed for the Section III Class AA playoffs.
That doubt vanished by halftime of Tuesday night's regular-season finale at Liverpool, where the Hornets, led by junior guard Louis Avellino, unleashed a 21-0 run to put away the Warriors on the way to a 66-33 victory.
A points system determines the AA playoff pairings, not overall or league record. Thus, despite a 15-2 mark and perfect record in the CNY Counties League, F-M did not have the no. 1 sectional seed locked up.
When Henninger, who still had a chance to get to the top, beat Nottingham 63-53 earlier in the day to finish its regular season at 15-3, the Hornets faced a clear assignment - either beat a 10-6, playoff-bound Liverpool side on the Warriors' Senior Night, or slip to the no. 2 seed.
At least F-M did so at full strength, with point guard Jake Wittig back in the lineup. The sophomore had missed the Hornets' narrow 53-52 escape against Utica Proctor last Saturday due to injury, but was present on this night.
And Wittig made an immediate impact, stealing the ball three times in the game's first two minutes to set a defensive tone that persisted for the rest of the evening.
F-M's 1-3-1 zone harassed Liverpool into a host of mistakes that, eventually, would take a toll. Wittig would finish with eight steals, plus 10 assists.
Just as important was the initial 3-pointer that John Schurman hit in the opening seconds. This forced Liverpool to defend him more and opened things up for Avellino, who took full advantage.
With the game still tied 8-8 late in the first quarter, Tomer Nesher converted a three-point play. Nine more points followed in quick order, including five from Avellino, capped by a 3-pointer that made it 20-8 as they went to the second quarter.