SYRACUSE The Fayetteville-Manlius basketball team that compiled a 16-2 regular season record en route to the Section III Class AA tournament’s top seed was nowhere to be found Saturday night at Le Moyne College.
The Hornets fell to no. 4 seed and defending champion Utica Proctor 68-61 and ended up one game short of the championship game in the Carrier Dome.
Hornets head coach Tom Blackford, who has spent most of the season explaining why his team is so effective, searched for answers after the loss.
“We, for whatever reason, just got caught up in the moment,” Blackford said. “I've been in this business for 30 years, it just happens sometimes. We picked (this) night to let it happen, unfortunately.
“At this stage of the season we were confident,” Blackford added. “Sometimes you just get outplayed. We got outplayed.”
Much like its AA quarterfinal win over CBA, the Hornets began out of sync, failing to score for the game’s first two minutes.
But unlike the CBA game, in which the Hornets recovered to shoot 62 percent and win 82-42, F-M was unable to find its groove that created 14 double-digit victories this season.
“They played who they were, and quite frankly we didn't,” Blackford said.
Committing more turnovers than usual, F-M went four minutes without scoring in the first quarter as the Raiders seized a 17-14 lead. The vaunted 1-3-1 zone that has led to countless fast-break points and momentum swings was ineffective against a Proctor team that nearly beat the Hornets two weeks earlier.
“Our defense tonight really killed us because we get a lot of points on offense through our defense and we didn't have many transition baskets tonight,” Blackford said.
Proctor hit a staggering five 3-pointers in the opening period, using every inch of the court to evade the F-M trap and find the open man.