Also check out an extensive photo gallery by News photographer Mark Mulville -- more than 50 photos from Saturday -- as well as great photo galleries from the Class C and Class D finals by News photographer James P. McCoy.
Here are some game-by-game thoughts and tidbits, starting with the largest/most recent game, which I also happen to have the most leftovers from. I've also got more on the games I wrote about.
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Here's what happens when dapper Ben Drake returns to his locker room after winning the sectional title.
As I blogged about on Thursday, Jamestown has played the caliber of basketball many expected after it started the year so well, including its win over Section V now-champion Newark. The Red Raiders have a complete team -- so many parts doing so many things. I wrote that their final four performance at Buffalo State was Niagara Falls-like because it was; they were clearly at a much higher level than their opponents.
Larson played well inside, Butts provided a dangerous dynamic with his ability to put the ball on the floor and Paige was huge against Clarence as he did a little bit of everything. Campion (along with his brother) is a savvy player there for some threes and they have some very reliable reserves.
Rivera is obviously a terrific leader and big shot maker.
Clarence was able to answer a lot of the Red Raiders' moves in the first half, but they had some empty trips to start the third and they just couldn't keep up. Jamestown showed in both games that it plays some serious defense.
Rivera had his typical game for the Red Raiders (on his 18th birthday) despite not being able to put any weight on his ankle all day Friday.
"A lot of people didn't know that he showed up to school [Friday] without being able to bear weight on his foot," said Jamestown coach Ben Drake. "He rolled his ankle Thursday night and overnight it just really swelled up bad. He went home and iced and elevated the entire day and continued [Saturday] morning. He came into our walkthrough [Saturday] at noon on crutches. He could walk, but he couldn't do anything else.
"We didn't know if he would be able to play, honestly. I game-planned to play without him. But God answered some prayers for us for sure, because I didn't think he was going to be able to play. Thank God we had him tonight.
"He's ice. If you cut his arm open, ice would pour out. He always makes big shots for us. He's done that for the last four years. Whenever Clarence went on a run, just like a lot of other games we've had in the past, we run a play for Carlos, he comes off a screen and knocks down a three for us. It's been the story of his career and I wouldn't trade him for any other player in Western New York."
"It was the biggest game of my life, so I had to play. ... At halftime we all brought it in together, all our players, and we had a little talk. From then on, we got real motivated and we just played Jamestown basketball."
For Clarence, what a tremendous run, one of the best I've ever seen come sectional time.
The Red Devils didn't go quietly -- in the first half, there were two back-and-forth runs between the two teams that were tremendously entertaining. Check the live blog -- one included a dunk by Funk (gotta love that phrase) and one soon after included blocks at both ends on consecutive plays.
"They made a couple of runs, we made some couple
of runs coming back -- we hung on as long as we could," said Clarence coach Todd Banaszak. "We just had a tough
time creating on the offensive end.
"I thought Funk had a great game. Hopefully people will recognize him now and he'll get notoriety like he deserves.
"We talked in the locker room that we're not so sure anybody had the run we had: Our opportunity that we had to beat the Falls, and I don't think anyone played in a game like we did against OP. I don't think anybody had the excitement and quite the fun -- it's fun for everybody, but our run was pretty special with the teams we beat and where we came from, and being the lowest seed in all of the schools in the tournament here [at Buffalo State].
"This was a special thing for us. We always said we could beat any AA school, and we almost did."
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Williamsville South's Joe Licata hits three-pointers like they are layups. It is uncanny. And, as he says in Allen Wilson's story, he's got one of the best creators one could imagine in point guard Mark Coppola.
Licata's three after McKinley junior Antonio Avery threw down a nice dunk was a major momentum stopper -- from a seven-point game in the third quarter to 11 in a matter of seconds. Quick-strike attacks like that, and Coppola's skedaddling all over the court, are part of what makes South so much fun to watch.
Avery was spectacular at times. As tough a season as this was for the Macks in regards to graduation losses from last year's title team, next season looks very promising.
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East was simply too much for Maryvale. Domonique Jackson sets the tone for a very unselfish team, but he also stepped up as a leader and a scorer on Saturday. On two occasions, Maryvale got some momentum with a three, and twice Jackson calmly came down the other end and, with his relaxed release, answered with his own three. The TV guys call those daggers.
With the ability of Jackson to hit the three (and Deon Robinson, and Tremmell Fisher, and Dale Gray ... can anyone not hit threes on this team?), you can almost see why the team was settling for outside shots early on. But it can score inside as well (Jackson does that, too) and it needs to do that too to excel. Early on against Maryvale it settled for jumpers and the game remained close; when it started mixing it up it was a lethal combination.
All of East's players are tough to handle on the boards, particularly Jackson, Fisher and Jasen Oden on defense and Gray on offense. The defensive boards become sparks for transition, and Gray is a serious finisher.
When Maryvale missed more and more threes as it tried to catch up, it led to fast breaks and a swelling of the lead. Once it got ahead, East smartly slowed the pace.
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I couldn't squeeze everything into my one story on both B games, so there are some more tidbits for these two ...
Similar to East and Jamestown, Olean is loaded with weapons and plays super-smart and was just too much for Depew on Saturday. The Huskies eight seniors include their big three in Ryan Carney, Joe Palumbo and Alex Moore, but Ryan Lollier, Kevin Stevens and Louis Proto can also step up and hit shots. That helped when Moore and Carney (who finished with four points) picked up some early fouls.
For Depew, it had foul trouble and it didn't have any answers after that.
Palumbo battled often with Depew standout senior guards Rick Coburn (14 points) and Jake Maryniewski (six points), the Wildcats' floor leader. Olean had a 39-35 lead to start the fourth quarter but took a 45-37 lead on two free throws by Stevens after Maryniewski fouled out with 4:28 left in the game. Coburn went out with 1:20 left and Depew trailing, 52-43, after a 1-for-2 trip by Stevens.
Jones was steamed at the officiating during and after the game, and while on the sidelines he audibly noted that two of the officials were from the Southern Tier.
After the game he wore a intense read-between-the-lines facial expression as he said: "We were
fine. We were good. I had no problem with the way the game was being played.
"You take away my best two players, we're probably not going to win any games."
I asked about Olean not running out of players while Depew did for the reasons I mentioned above about Olean's depth.
"I did run out of guys. Isn't that interesting? I ran out of players, they didn't seem to."
Now, I understand coach Jones' frustration after a tough loss. He has a great team that was scratching and clawing with Olean all game. However, I can't say that the officiating, or where the officials were from, for that matter, played a major part.
Maybe I'll have a chance to check out the Time Warner tape to double check, but during the game I didn't notice any egregiously bad calls on Depew's top two guards. I reviewed my own live blog about some of the calls and I didn't note it during the game.
I honestly don't remember Coburn's fifth foul, nor did I take note of it, but since that was quite late in the game with Olean up a substantial amount, we'll set that aside.
Maryniewski, who is probably Depew's most important player, picked up his third foul early in the third and was called for a blocking foul as he tried to take a charge late in the third. I thought that call was OK, but even if it wasn't, the block/charge call is not only the toughest in basketball, but the toughest perhaps in all sports. if you are in foul trouble, it's a huge gamble to try and take a charge.
I thought Maryniewski's fifth foul was definitely a foul, coming on a wrong-place, wrong-time collision under the Olean basket after a layup didn't fall for Depew. That play was huge. If the layup goes in, Depew is down four with Maryniewski. It didn't, and after the free throws Depew was down eight without him.
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As I wrote about in the story, it couldn't have been any clearer. Tight game, final minutes ... and Akron was more prepared for that moment due to its experience. Notably Trevor Short was ready -- scoring on three straight drives to turn a one-point deficit into a Tigers lead.
Cleveland Hill had a great finish to what was a very good season.
Sophomore Daryl Spencer, junior Jailyn Tompkins and senior Andrew
Gilliam each scored 12 points for the Golden Eagles while senior Aaron
Sanders and junior Omar Ramadhan were major factors with their defense
and passing. Cleveland Hill went 4-8 in ECIC IV just two years ago.
"Momentum swung their way, unfortunately our offense wasn't as strong as it needed to be to win today," said Cleveland Hill coach Jason Przybysz .
"There's a lot of promise for the future, and it's come from the whole program," he said, noting some recent success of the school's modified program.
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Middle College put perhaps the most impressive performance of the weekend by throttling what is a very good Cassadaga Valley team in what amounted to a road game. On the drive down to Jamestown, you drive right by Cassadaga Valley's school, and you also drive past the Derry Rodeo. On the lit-up sign outside the rodeo, the game time and place were listed with the urging "WEAR RED."
A tremendous game by Middle College to fulfill a lot of expectations that were super-high once the team slid down to Class C this year.
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Maple Grove did what it had to do, but I believe this was the closest game I've seen the Red Dragons win in my trips to JCC -- and that's the last four years. The absence of McElrath proved to be big; we'll have to see if he's back for the regional game.
Sherman went cold in a two-point third quarter.
"We've always had a little trouble scoring, and unfortunately the third quarter is when it happened," said Sherman coach Cory Emory. " I just told the guys during the week, if we have one of those bad quarters, that's probably spell our doom, because the other three were pretty much a dead heat. I knew Maple Grove was going to come out with a bunch of energy. We came out a little bit flat in the third quarter and they came out more ready to play."
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We didn't forget Nichols -- nice win by them down on Long Island to earn a date Sunday at Niagara University, where St. Mary's will also play for a state Catholic title and the right to get to Glens Falls.
That makes seven trips to Glens Falls on the line in Western New York this weekend -- five on Saturday and two on Sunday.
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And before that, a tremendous overall Class A championship game between East and Williamsville South, one of the most anticipated crossover matchups in recent history and certainly two of the very best teams in Western New York.
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