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Hoop memories from Canisius' auditorium

Canisius coach Kyle Husband is a 1996 alum of the school and he also played on the Canisius auditorium floor which features prominently in my game story in Monday's paper.

Asked what his favorite game as a player was, he quickly noted that he couldn't pick one against St. Joe's.

"I never beat Joe's here, we beat them in Cup, so it's not one of those. I used to have great games against St. Francis -- where I went my first two years, so probably one of those games."

On what he likes the most about the court:

"Playing with the crowd. I can't imagine a better high school atmosphere, and you know it's going to be here ever year. My junior year, they were way better than we were, it was still packed and it was still awesome."

What about as a coach? The 2007 victory over a favored Joe's team featuring seniors Domonic Cook and John Greer stood out; Canisius juniors Anthony Ragusa, Justin Young and Justin Volk starred as the No. 10 large school Crusaders beat No. 2 St. Joe's, 54-46. "That one was fun. We were big underdogs , I'll never forget that game." 

Some more thoughts on Canisius' finale with Joe's on its auditorium floor:

* I have definitely enjoyed covering games there -- you can't beat the literal theater that accompanies a big game there. On days where the gym is absolutely jammed, it's a great scene with the groups of students doing their thing on each side, while the floor in front of the first row of seats -- which is a fair distance from the court -- is filled with youngsters sitting on the floor. 

* Said senior Sean Brady: "It's weird that it's not going to be here next year. It's a great gym. It looks pretty cool. I'd rather keep this."

* Speaking of looking cool, the venue is charming from no matter where you are. Some of the angles from the auditorium seats can be tough (I've watched some games from there). From up on stage, the view is stunning. Being above the court certainly makes for a nice view, but then there's the mass of people in the seats, to the students in the corners, the towering columns, the balcony, the decorative architecture. I'll definitely miss it.  

* The auditorium is so charming, at first thought I wondered aloud to some Canisius folks if they could keep holding the Canisius-Joe's game in the auditorium despite the move to the new field house. The second thought? I'm sure the architects (and the millions of dollars, of course) will result in something special for the Crusaders' new home.

* "This place has had some memories, both good and bad," said St. Joe's coach Mark Simon. "The history here is tremendous."

* * * 

Some more in-the-bonus coverage of Canisius' 53-48 win over St. Joe's Sunday afternoon:

* * *

The game began with a moment of silence honoring the late Rev. James P. Higgins, the '72 Canisius alum who was the school's president from 2001-08.

* * *

Canisius coach Kyle Husband said that his seniors get so pumped up for St. Joe's, he didn't even emphasize to them that it was the last game on the auditorium court against the Marauders.

"These guys get so jacked up for this game regardless," said Husband. "It's something else. Coming out I thought Sean was going to jump through the roof at one point, he had enough juice."

Brady's vertical leap is ridiculous. The spring-loaded constantly gets above the rim for rebounds, and when he stopped quickly and sank a shot in the fourth quarter, he put some serious up into pull-up jumper.

And of course there was the two-handed, body-flying jam in the second quarter.

"I got the steal and no one was in front of me, so I went for it," said Brady. "It worked out pretty well. My dad (who watched from the balcony) wanted one for his birthday -- I made sure I got him one."

Asked if he hung on the rim for safety or for effect, he said:

"A little bit of both. The last time, I got a technical. Thank goodness I didn't get one this time."

* * *

Junior Max Baire has become a dependable three-point threat off the bench. Two straight threes by Baire helped Canisius quickly dig out of an eight-point hole to start the fourth quarter.

"It all comes from my teammates," he said. "They dish and give me an open shot, and it's my job to knock it down. Some days it's on, some days it's not. They do a great job getting me open and getting me the ball to hopefully make something happen.

"Nothing goes thorugh my mind, just fire. Get it and shoot. If you think about it too much, you're going to miss a lot of the time."

Baire on Canisius' melding its many parts together as the season has gone on:

"We have a ton of people who are athletic -- in the beginning of the year we kind of struggled, but now we've come together as as team," he said. "We know how to play to each other's strengths and to help each other out."

* * *

With all the youth that was on the floor for St. Joe's, coach Mark Simon is realistic about what they can do now but very optimistic about down the road.

"What we talked about with our young guys is that this is a learning experience," he said. "Their senior leadership made plays, and our sophomore kids have to learn about that fourth quarter.

"If you take anything away [from this game], you have to learn that you have to step up and make plays. They made them and we didn't."

St. Joe's started one senior in Evan King (who had some nice interior plays). The other starters were James Maiarana (junior), Kyle Wojciechowski (junior), Matthew Dyrek (junior) and Thomas Escott (sophomore). Sophomore Connor Rehbaum, sophomore Jake Spitler and freshman Patrick Blanch all came off the bench. Also part of the young squad is injured big man Sean Mulhern, a junior.

"Our future is very bright," said Simon. "I'm proud of the way they continue to grow. I think maybe we surprised some people today that we could come here and hang in with them - it's what we do with it from here is what matters."

* * *

Canisius has now won six straight after starting 3-5.

"Hopefully some of those tough games early on have come to pay off," said Husband. "In second or third game of the year, we probably wouldn't have won a game down by eight going into the fourth quarter. But we have the confidence, we've been there, we're battle tested. We weren't worried. We had seniors step up."

After the showdown at No. 2 large school Nichols at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Crusaders host No. 3 large school Grover Cleveland in a make-up game on Saturday at 3 p.m. 

Canisius will play shorthanded for the second Saturday in three weeks -- Brady and Andrew Zdrojewski will be away on college football recruiting trips. Two Saturdays ago, Zdrojewski and Pat Wilson were unavailable but the Crusaders still beat Riverside at the MLK Classic.

* * *

No matter what happens Wednesday (Canisius at Nichols) or for the rest of the season, the home-court finale against Nichols on Feb. 20 should be quite the event. I'm already looking forward to it.

* * *

Following up on the get-there-early call before Sunday's game -- I saved myself some searching and actually parked at a coworker's apartment building down Delaware Ave., joining plenty of folks walking a block or two to Canisius for the big game.

* * *

Got a memory from Canisius' unique floor? Share it below in the comments section.

---Keith McShea


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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

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