Championship Week tips off tonight.
Review the day-by-day schedule (the class-by-class version is here) and vote in the polls.
A treat of a tripleheader tips us off at Buffalo State.
The 5:30 p.m. opener is a Class B-2 semifinal featuring the Charter School of Applied Technologies making its first appearance at Buffalo State as it takes on CCAA II champion Cassadaga Valley. CSAT, located in the Town of Tonawanda, has shown an ability to put points on the board during a season in which it finished third behind Niagara-Orleans co-champions and top small schools Wilson and Newfane, and it is also coming off an impressive quarterfinal victory over City Honors. Cassadaga Valley rolled to the semis with a 65-37 rout of Fredonia.
That game is followed by the two B-1 semifinals, both of which are very intriguing. At 7 p.m., Western New York's only undefeated team, CCAA I champion Dunkirk, takes on Lackawanna. Senior leader Vinny Bomasuto had 47 points as Dunkirk routed Buffalo Arts by 40 to improve to 19-0 on the season and make their first trip to Buffalo State in recent memory. Lackawanna had lineup struggles early in the season but have won 8 of its last 9.
At 8:30, two league champions face off as ECIC IV's Tonawanda meets Newfane, the co-champion of the Niagara-Orleans League. Newfane has been in the top 10 all year behind a veteran team that includes Rohn Pierce operating in the middle. Tonawanda won its first league title since 1958 behind a balanced team led by scorers Jesse Lalka and Clayton Hess.
While the Class D semifinals are held at Jamestown Community College, there's another tripleheader at Buffalo State.
The tip off is the other half of the B-2 bracket, as Cleveland Hill takes on top-seeded Wilson at 5:30. Cleveland Hill has several players back from a team that lost to Akron in last year's B-2 title game, and it made it back to Buffalo State with an impressive road win at Salamanca. Wilson, led by senior guard Brennan Moxham, has been a favorite in this class all year but is arrives at Buffalo State without the energy and inside play of senior forward Tyler Truesdell, who suffered a knee injury late in the regular season.
Then it's time for the A-2 semifinals, starting with a 7 p.m. meeting between two very familiar faces at Buffalo State: Olean and East. Olean moved up to Class A this year and started the season slow with a very young team, but it still has a chance to win a fifth straight sectional title. The Huskies have won four consecutive overall Class B championships. East is the Yale Cup Division I champion and the defending Class A-2 champion, having shown great balance behind Tremmell Fisher, Andre Jackson, Jasen Oden, Chris Boyd and Dominique House.
Cheektowaga returns to Buffalo State after losing in last year's semifinals -- they take on a team that ousted ECIC III champion Maryvale in the quarterfinals, Riverside. Cheektowaga finished second behind Maryvale in ECIC III.
Perhaps the busiest and most meaningful weekday of Championship Week in the last decade.
The Manhattan Cup championship pits Canisius and St. Joe's at 6 p.m. at Canisius College. Both split their meetings this year on the other team's floor, with St. Joe's winning at Canisius, 67-57, on Jan. 29, and Canisius winning at St. Joe's, 82-78, in the final week of the regular season (Feb. 15). Both teams routed their way into the final.
At Buffalo State, the A-1 doubleheader starts at 6 p.m. with top 10 large school Bennett, which owns two wins over AA semifinalist McKinley, taking on upstart Kenmore East -- perhaps the biggest surprise semifinalist after winning at Williamsville East in the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Williamsville South has been expected to be in this spot all season, and they'll take on Hutch-Tech at 7:45 p.m. Defending overall A champion South is led by senior football/basketball standouts Phil Stasiak, Kevin O'Connell and Joe Licata, who is two three-pointers away from breaking the all-time state record. Tech has had an impressive second half of the season behind senior all-around threat Maurice Miles and a cast of contributors.
The final four at Jamestown Community College has been more anticipated than the one at Buffalo State as the top 10 small schools square off. At 6 p.m., a balanced Maple Grove team takes on a deep Tapestry Charter squad led by top scorer Dazmon Knight. At 7:45 p.m., OTC Middle College will attempt to avoid a three-game season sweep by top-seeded and No. 1 small school International Prep at Grover Cleveland at 7:45. I-Prep beat OTC twice in Yale Cup Division II play, but the second win came in overtime.
One of the most anticipated final fours comes in Class AA, as season-long top 10 school McKinley, coming off an impressive rout at Williamsville North in the quarterfinals, takes on No. 1 large school Niagara Falls at 6 p.m. The buzz at Buffalo State has been at its best in recent years when top Falls teams have squared off against some of the city's best (including Bennett in the early 2000s and Riverside in the middle of the decade).
The second game is another third meeting between league rivals as Lancaster meets Jamestown at 7:45. Lancaster gave a full-strength Jamestown its toughest tests by far in ECIC I play, losing by a combined 12 points (70-66 on Jan. 4 at Jamestown and 69-61 on Feb. 4 at Lancaster). The Red Raiders feature a powerful one-two combination in Jaysean Paige and Darin Butts whle JJ Harrington leads Lancaster in the middle.
Friday and Saturday
JCC hosts the Class D (6 p.m.) and C (7:45) finals on Friday while Buffalo State hosts five championships on Saturday (B-2 noon, B-1 1:45, A-2 3:30 in the first session; A-1 6:30 and AA 8:15 in the evening session).
The Manhattan Cup winner takes on a downstate team in the state Catholic semifinals at noon at Canisius College.
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