We've got two big stops today -- Grover Cleveland at East in a crucial Yale Cup game and Canisius at Nichols in a major Monsignor Martin matchup.
5:30 p.m. Be careful out there driving -- we're at East after a slip-slidey trip down Fillmore Ave. and we've had a report of one high school hoops junkie getting in a weather-related fender-bender.
It's unfortunate that East is still without the suspended Domonique Jackson and Grover is now without injured Ricky Alejandro.
5:47 p.m. We are at the end of the first quarter and Grover Cleveland has a 17-11 lead over East.
5:53 p.m. Grover calls a timeout up, 19-18, after two Chris Holland free throws. East had taken its first lead of the game at 18-17 after a 7-0 run.
6:06 p.m. We are at HALFTIME and East leads Grover, 33-31. A well-played and entertaining half on the court and on the sidelines, where Earl Schunk of Grover and Starling Bryant of East are two of the most entertaining coaches to listen to during a game.
Schunk complained about a foul call repeatedly while an East player went to the line. The player ended up missing both free throws, and as the second one rimmed out, Schunk yelled to the ref, "Ahh, never mind."
6:15 p.m. We've started the second half.
6:23 p.m. Grover calls a timeout with 4:27 left in the third quarter with East holding a 38-36 lead.
6:26 p.m. East calls a timeout with 3:41 left in the third; same East lead, 38-36.
6:33 p.m. At the end of the third quarter, East leads Grover, 44-38.
6:39 p.m. Grover calls a timeout with 5:27 left and East up, 46-42.
6:42 p.m. Bryant calls a timeout for East with 4:01 left and his Panthers up, 50-42, after some nice press-beating baskets.
6:45 p.m. A delay in the action right now after an incident in the stands -- there was some woofing but nothing more. Police and school officials stepped in and ejected some fans and we're going back to action. East leads, 50-42, with about 3:45 left.
6:56 p.m. East's lead is 54-50 with 1:10 left after a Kenny Pringle driving layup.
6:58 p.m. East's lead down to 56-55 with 28.7 seconds left after a three-pointer and a layup by Pringle.
7:03 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: East 57, Grover Cleveland 55.
East's Tremmell Fisher blocked a Kenny Pringle end-to-end drive in the final seconds with the score 56-55. Fisher made up for missing two free throws with 9.1 seconds left.
A last-second, just-inside-half-court shot by Grover's Kevin Hall went off the rim. Grover had a shot to go ahead in the final minute but a layup off of a great Pringle penetration-and-pass was missed.
The scorebooks have been posted, including Pringle scoring seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter -- they actually all came consecutively for Grover in the last two minutes.
Time for some interviews and then it's off to Nichols.
7:57 p.m. We're squeezed into a seat here behind the scorer's table at a jam-packed Nichols gym. Right now, as per Nichols tradition, the seniors are being feted with speeches by classmates. Pretty good stuff. Will Regan just paid tribute to the Nichols trainer and the team posed for a picture with her -- classy job by them.
Made myself a parking spot on the road just outside the gym -- the snowy lot is filled, the small lot before the hockey rink was filled, the lot on the other side of the school that I sneakily thought I'd get into was filled.
8:01 p.m. We have five minutes counting down on the clock for warmups after the ceremony.
This place is super-packed. How packed? There are firemen behind one of the baskets to make sure all is well with the emergency exits and the fire code.
8:16 p.m. We're in the first quarter and Nichols leads, 10-2, with 4:45 left. The updates might not be coming so quickly because we've got a lot of work to do, a late-starting game and an early deadline tonight.
8:24 p.m. At the end of the first quarter, Nichols and Ron Canestro have looked very good and lead, 24-12.
8:41 p.m. At halftime, Nichols leads Canisius, 40-18. The Vikings look excellent, just beating Canisius at both ends. A 16-4 second quarter.
9:05 p.m. Nichols is having a remarkable night. They are flat-out beating Canisius. The Vikings are up, 62-33, at the end of the third quarter.
Nichols just had its subs in for the final minute of the third. The jam-packed gym is becoming unpacked as fans are leaving. This is an astounding beating.
Of note: With 5:40 left in the quarter, Nichols' Stan Wier and Canisius' Blair Helton were rightly called for double technical fouls after some arms (and words) came up after a play.
9:13 p.m. Canisius calls a timeout with 4:36 left in the game in what is now a very quiet gym. Crazy. Nichols leads, 68-42.
9:29 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Nichols 77, Canisius 54.
Time for a lot of work for me. Be back later.
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10:55 p.m. I should have had this next bit of info up sooner, but I was busy getting the box score in, writing my story, interviewing Greg Plumb and filming some blabbity-blah segments for the next episode of PrepTalkTV.
Nichols won the coin flip. So did St. Joe's. St. Mary's wins at Timon. So ....
The seeds and pairings are set for the Manhattan Cup playoffs, which begin with Sunday's quarterfinals at Canisius College. After Wednesday's games and two coinflips the seedings are: 1. Nichols, 2. Canisius, 3. St. Mary's (by virtue of its win at Bishop Timon-St. Jude on Wednesday night), 4. Timon, 5. St. Joe's (by coinflip after it was tied with St. Francis), 6. St. Francis, 7. Niagara Catholic.
Cardinal O'Hara will face Archbishop Walsh in a play-in game Friday with the winner advancing to play Nichols. That game will be the final one in Sunday's quadrupleheader. The lineup starts at 1 p.m. with Timon-St. Jude vs. St. Joe's, followed by St. Mary's vs. St. Francis, Canisius vs. Niagara Catholic and then Nichols.
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The scorebooks from Nichols' win are here, along with some final thoughts ...
The only thing more startling than the halftime score, and even the third quarter score, is that for most of that time this was an intensely-played, clean game by both teams. The possessions were valued. Teams seemed to be running their offenses. They seemed in sync. But Nichols just kept scoring and just kept preventing Canisius from scoring.
I'd look up at the scoreboard and shake my head -- the score didn't seem to match up with how much both teams were into the game. It's not like Canisius laid an egg. Sure, they missed some shots, but it wasn't -- in my opinion -- like they didn't show up. Games with scores like this usually point towards the loser having a bad night on its own, where coaches rue errors and turnovers and bad shots; this was a case of one team just beating the other.
Nichols had a superb night, but not an out-of-its-mind night. This was the kind of performance the Vikings were putting forth early in the year, and now they not only have Canestro back, they have contributors like Dieter Clauss (five points, strong baseline drive in second quarter, nice assist to Wier right after that) and Evan Grenda (three-pointer in the second to put Nichols up, 29-16).
Canestro only had seven points but it he had a large part in setting the tone for the Vikings early on with his defense, ball handling and court vision. He may have pushed it a little bit later on with perhaps an ill-advised shot and a reach-in foul, but I read that as a senior glad to be back playing on senior night in what turned out to be a fantastic performance for his team.
Regan was outstanding, nearly unstoppable in the paint, and that's with -- in my opinion -- him not getting many calls on the offensive end while he got called for some extremely light ticky-tack fouls on the defensive end (I rarely like to discuss officiating, but I do think it showed his ability to put forth a dominant performance despite ending up with four fouls).
Andy MacKinnon played exceptional defense, including one play in which he did an outstanding job moving his feet to stay in front of Aaron Nevins. Any hopes of Canisius trimming the lead -- which I almost thought was automatic considering the intensity and pace of the game -- were stymied by, in large part, Connor Vandegriff. He scored 10 of his 12 in the third with putbacks and court movement that put him in the right open spots for his teammates to find him.
Stan Wier lit up the scorebook, had some tremendous finishes, hit two three-pointers and played some tough defense as well. With Canestro back, it just makes everyone on the team better -- Wier is so powerful at both ends.
The scorebook tells the story of the Nichols defense -- the 40-18 first half included this rundown for Canisius: five points from Gordon Lyons, four from Nevins and C.J. Coatsworth, three from Jimmy Gaines and two from Blair Helton.
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But check it out: Williamsville South's Joe Licata goes for 41(!) and 13 threes(!) on probably many of Mark Coppola's 20 assists (!) in a 108-84 victory at Iroquois.
That's right, 1-0-8. In regulation. Whoa. Iroquois has struggled, and I guess they tried to run with South, but I didn't expect to hear that tonight.
Keron Briggs hits for 43 points and seven threes for Sweet Home against Lake Shore. St. Mary's wins at Timon. Niagara Falls routs Grand Island. JFK with a big Cheektowaga victory over Cleveland Hill.
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As always, let us know if you were out at a game in the comments space below.
taggedBasketball | Canisius | East High | Grover Cleveland | Nichols