A tradition unlike any other continued tonight as I and plenty of other high school hoopheads checked out opening night of the week-long Pastor-Cooper Memorial Tournament at Daemen College.
I wasn't there for a quality start of the season for the St. Mary's girls team, which beat Williamsville North, 37-34.
I caught the last four minutes of McKinley beating the St. Mary's boys, 66-51. The Macks looked good as they finished off the Lancers, very active on defense and some nice fast-break finishes, including one by a high-rising Antonio Avery, a returning senior starter. It appeared that the Macks are back to their throw-a-lot-of-bodies-at-you, up-tempo attack as they had 12 people scoring. I saw some nice decisions down the stretch as well.
The final game had Grover Cleveland taking on Orchard Park, with many (including me) expecting the Presidents to win since it has some key returning players (very key in Chris Holland). However, OP played smart and Kyle Witkowski kept hitting three-pointers (five for all 15 of his points) in a 57-52 victory.
First eyebrow-raiser was that Grover is now wearing uniforms to reflect the school's name change to International Prep at Grover. As the picture shows, it's now I-Prep at Grover on the uniforms, and the colors are a deep navy blue and white. Throw in how former assistant Shawn Ryan has taken over for longtime head coach/sideline comedian Earl Shunk (who retired and is now coaching Tapestry Charter), and it really was like watching a new entity.
Chris Holland was back, along with fellow seniors guard Kenny Pringle and big man Kadeem Hillman. Holland showed why he is a returning All-Western New Yorker with his usual well-rounded game that showed off scoring, rebounding (especially rebounding), passing and defense (steals and blocks). Junior Maurice Cheatom showed some great energy for the Presidents but overall the team could have used some more; could be the football season hangover as many players were on the Class C North champions' roster.
Grover did trim the lead to 49-48 with 4:37 left, but OP responded with an up-and-under move off a baseline drive by senior Zach Schenk (watch below) and a jumper by senior Ryan Lindquist. Schenk and junior Matt McCormick delivered some clutch two-for-two trips to the foul line in the final 1:30 to push a 53-51 lead to 57-51 with 43.7 seconds left.
Let's go to the iPhone video:
Great starts for McKinley and OP, great to have hoop season back. I'll be at Friday's championship triple-header, which I will start looking forward to as soon as I get through a ton of work this week.
In related stories, my weekly chat will be Wednesday at 9 p.m., the All-Western New York football team will be published Saturday, the Connolly Cup will be awarded Saturday, the boys basketball preview will be published next Tuesday, and we are working on a new feature for our Web site that we're hoping will be really, really cool (and it will include a master season schedule). Stay tuned.
taggedBasketball | Grover Cleveland | McKinley | Orchard Park | St. Mary's/Lancaster | Video | Williamsville North