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Note: This is the extended (verrrrrry extended) version of my story in Friday's Buffalo News.
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The only thing more fun than watching 30 basketball games in 14 days is going through and coming up with our version of One Shining Moment.
I look over the stories we've written, the box scores, the live blogs, and my notebooks to try and come with the best stuff from Championship Week. I get the best stuff in the story in the paper, and I get everything else here on the blog.
For the 11th straight year, here are our Championship Week awards based on the boys basketball semifinals and finals at Buffalo State, Canisius College and Jamestown Community College.
Best dunk: It is not every day that a reserve of a team hammers in an alley-oop slam dunk to help push his team to a championship. That's what East Aurora senior Michael Rhoades did in the third quarter of the overall Class A final. Rhoades took an inbounds lob pass from senior James Ritchie underneath the basket and stunningly finished with two hands. The basket gave EA a 37-34 lead over McKinley and was part of a game-ending 20-7 finish for the Blue Devils.
Best photo taken by a mom: Michael's mother Sharon, who takes her camera to every game, was in the right spot at the right time to get a shot of her son's dunk. Check it out above.
"When the team is playing the game I am always ready with my camera," Sharon wrote in an email. "My kids [Michael and twin sister Elizabeth, a volleyball player] have shown tremendous improvement since freshmen year. I am so proud of them both.
"You asked if I knew if this play was being called when I took the picture -- I know they have been working on this, but to tell you the truth, I just followed the play and was able to get this great shot."
Best shot: This one is easy. Taijay Williams' three-pointer from the right corner with 13 seconds put Niagara Falls ahead of Jamestown in the AA final.
Best nickname: Williams' "Mr. Big Shot," a la NBA-er Chauncey Billups, which he was tagged with as a sophomore.
Best pass: Clymer's Lee Barczyk of Clymer threw a slick, one-hander over three defenders more than halfway downcourt to Adam Walker for a layup in the D final.
Best behind-the-back pass: CSAT freshman Dylanta Carson drove baseline and found Justin Black, who scored while being fouled in the B-2 final.
Best backdoor pass: Matt Hart's textbook delivery to Adam Weir during Canisius' Manhattan Cup final win.
Best fast-break pass: Hart again in the final, going behind-the-back for a Weir layup.
Best block: Connor Keenan of Williamsville East hustled back during the A-1 final and got up to erase what looked to be a sure layup for McKinley.
Best block by someone under 6 feet: Falls' Jaleo Wilkins -- all 5-10 of him -- swatted a taller Williamsville North forward from behind in the AA semifinals.
Best alley-oop dunk (non inbound-division): Niagara Falls' Williams passed over the Jamestown zone to Jermaine Crumpton, who hammered it in for the second basket of the AA final.
Best drive: While moving forward, CSAT junior Darnell Carson put a dribble through his legs from behind as he scooted past defenders and finished against Olean in the overall B final.
Best drive-and-dish: Carson again. In the B-2 final, he went behind-the-back to avoid Wilson defenders as he got out of the backcourt, sped to the lane, went airborne and no-looked a pass to Jaquille Peay for the finish.
Best drive-and-bank: St. Mary's guard Erik Simmons set the tone early in an excellent performance against St. Joe's in the Manhattan Cup final early by driving through a sliver of space in the lane and reverse-English-ing the ball off the board while falling to the floor.
Best drive-and-bank in OT: Maple Grove senior Alex Grace's whirlybird finish down the left side off the glass for the Red Dragons' only basket in overtime C-1 final loss to Silver Creek.
Best drive-and-no-bank: East Aurora's Brendan Cox swooped in from the right baseline and converted a tough reverse layup from the left side without use of the backboard in the overall A final.
Three best threes: 1. Falls' Williams vs. Jamestown. 2. Maple Grove fans tried a fake shot clock countdown, and it appeared Silver Creek's Jon Jimerson may have fallen for it when he let a three go in overtime. It went in for the game-winner. 3. Depew came back from 11 to tie up Olean in the B-1 final, and then Nick Schmidt delivered a dagger from the left side with about 1:30 left to push the Huskies to victory.
Best steal: OTC Middle College senior Devonte Harper's sneaky theft at midcourt in the final seconds of the C final led to the free throw that gave the Kats a 58-57 victory over Silver Creek.
Smartest play: Silver Creek's Zeddie Williams got into the lane, then waited a split second for a defender to come over, just so he could pump-fake him and then score while getting fouled. He hit the free throw as well late in regulation of the C-2 final.
Best fake: Silver Creek's Williams came in from the left side and did a nice old-school-pick-up-game ball fake with one hand before scoring in the overall C final.
Best game: The AA final between Niagara Falls and Jamestown included Taijay Williams' three-pointer and wasn't complete until Tommy Campion's three went off the rim at the buzzer. It makes you want them to keep playing every year at Buffalo State (which they almost do already -- eight times in last 12 postseasons).
Best quarter: Wilson shut out City Honors, 9-0, in the fourth quarter to win its B-2 semifinal, 51-48, after trailing by 10 late in the third quarter.
Best game in a loss: Bishop Timon-St. Jude senior Jordan Williams did his part to keep Timon within range of Canisius in the Manhattan Cup semifinals, hitting five three-pointers during a 29-point game.
Worst call: We don't do this unless we have to. In the final seconds of Falls' AA win over Jamestown, Williams stole the ball and was going in alone for a layup when he was shoved clearly from behind. A foul was called, but an intentional foul should have been whistled. Overall, as usual, it was a great week from the officials.
Best coaching move: Niagara Falls had a three-point lead in the final seconds of the AA semifinal as Williamsville North's Sterling Taplin drove up the right side. Falls, with fouls to burn, fouled him to leave North with just 3.3 seconds to work with for a final shot, which they missed.
Best composure (for one play): Trailing by two with less than 30 seconds to play, Niagara Falls had every player on the floor touch the ball in a six-pass, draw-it-up-play which ended with junior reserve guard Jamere Ollison driving in from the left baseline and kicking out to Williams on the right baseline for his three against Jamestown.
Best composure (for every play): Silver Creek was cool, calm and collected every minute it was on the court.
Best league: ECIC III had four teams at Buffalo State. Overall A champion and A-2 winner East Aurora, A-2 finalist Amherst, A-2 semifinalist Cheektowaga and B-1 finalist Depew, which gave Olean a great game.
Best district: Williamsville had teams at Buffalo State in every one of its directions: North, East and South.
Best statement performance by a team: St. Mary's routed St. Joe's, 62-45, to advance to the school's first Manhattan Cup final.
Most impressive playoff runs: East Aurora beat higher-ranked and/or higher-seeded teams Riverside, Amherst and McKinley.
Maple Grove took out I-Prep at Grover and higher-ranked Seneca before losing to Silver Creek in OT.
Depew won in OT on road vs. Dunkirk, beat Tonawanda and gave Olean a great run in the B-1 final.
For the history books: Canisius won back-to-back Manhattan Cups, the first time that has happened in 12 years.
CSAT is the first charter school to win a Section VI title.
East Aurora earned its first trip to the Far West Regionals.
Williamsville North's Sterling Taplin surpassed 1,000 points in the AA semifinals -- as a sophomore.
Panama won its first sectional title in 41 years.
Jaysean Paige MVP Award (named for last year's winner from Jamestown): East Aurora senior Stan Wier.
All-Championship Week team: CSAT junior Darnell Carson, St. Mary's senior Erik Simmons, Canisius senior Matt Hart, Williamsville North sophomore Sterling Taplin, Williamsville East senior Connor Keenan, Niagara Falls senior Jaleo Wilkins.
Honorable mention: Bishop Timon-St. Jude senior Jordan Williams, Canisius juniors Aaron White and Adam Weir, McKinley junior Marcus Morris, Depew senior Jon Gemerek, Holland senior Jordan Farrant, Niagara Falls senior Taijay Williams, Panama senior Nick Lenart, St. Mary's senior Jake Denz, Frontier senior Matt Taylor, Olean sophomores Wil Bathurst, Nick Schmidt and Sam Eckstrom, Silver Creek junior Zeddie Williams.
Can't-wait-til-next-year team: Juniors Justice Feggans (Riverside), Max Portlow (Olean), Chaquiel Nettles (Williamsville South), Lovell Smith (McKinley), Tommy Campion (Jamestown), Keir Anderson (OTC Middle College), Zeddie Williams (Silver Creek), Jaquille Peay (CSAT).
Special can't-wait-til-the-next-year team award: Amherst started five juniors in its semifinal win over Cheektowaga.
Can't-wait-til-next-two-years team: Sophomores Brendan Cox (East Aurora), Bri'an Brown (OTC Middle College), Willie Smith (Riverside), Johnathan Lewis (East), Tyree Tyson (East), Kaine Kettle (Silver Creek).
Special can't-wait-til-the-next-two-years team award: Olean starts sophomores Sam Eckstrom, Wil Bathurst, Nick Schmidt and Luke Hennessey.
Can't-wait-til-next-three-years team: Freshmen Dorian Billups (Amherst), Zack Panebianco and Brendan Kellam (Jamestown), Cort Williams and Nicholas Clough (Williamsville East), Derrick Sekuterski (Depew), Dylanta Carson (CSAT), Clay Lewis (Holland).
A'aron Mungro Hustle Team (named for the 2003 City Honors state champion who packed 7 feet of heart into his 5-10 frame): East Aurora senior D.J. Miller (team captain), Cleveland Hill senior Daryl Spencer, McKinley junior Deonte Bell, OTC Middle College senior Devonte Harper, Williamsville East senior Michael Kyarunts, Williamsville North senior Brian Dobmeier.
Glue guys: Silver Creek junior Jon Jimerson, East Aurora senior James Ritchie, Niagara Falls junior Ramir Burton, Williamsville East senior Isaiah Kaudeyr, McKinley senior Michael Davis.
Super subs: St. Mary's junior Paul Rath and senior Nicc Johnson, OTC Middle College junior Kevin Reese, Williamsville East junior Michael Spina, Niagara Falls senior Jamere Ollison, Silver Creek senior Kevin Rocque, Olean junior Evan Ryan.
Best fans: Williamsville North's Green Squall brought it usual festive bunch with the hats and the ties and the headbands and the facepaint and the signs and the hardhats and the leis and a ton of green and gold.
Runners-up: Jamestown, Amherst, CSAT, Canisius, St. Mary's, East Aurora, Maple Grove, Panama, Clymer, Silver Creek.
Jamestown's sizable contingent had some politically incorrect headdresses but also had enough body-painted fans to spell out: "H-A-I-L R-A-I-D-E-R-S-!"
There was a row full of Amherst girls with Tiger print tank tops also spelling out "T-I-G-E-R-S."
Maple Grove had one student leading their pack with noises and waves from side-to-side during Silver Creek free throws.
CSAT's fans were super-supportive, including during a B final in which they trailed big in the second half. When Dylanta Carson stoel the ball and scored on a layup to cut Olean's lead to 51-34, Eagle fans hollered as if it was a two-point game.
EA's students came strong to the final, waving a big sign to distract free throw shooters; one female Blue Devil fan was painted blue and wore blue horns.
Best fan: Not even close. Jamestown's Green Man. Covered head-to-toe in a green body suit and holding his own toy basketball, he spent the first half going side-to-side as if he were defending along with the Red Raiders on the court.
Best chant: Late in the Manhattan Cup final, a St. Mary's cheerleader did about 15 flips from the St. Mary's end of the court to Canisius', finishing right in front of the Crusaders' white-out student section, which responded with a very gentlemanly: "What's-your-num-ber!?"
Best fan back-and-forth: Canisius fans declared "This-is-our-house!" during the Manhattan Cup championship; St. Mary's fans retorted with: "It's-a-coll-ege" by St. Mary's.
Best sign (which had no bearing on the best fan award, I swear): Jamestown's Green Man held up a sign early in the AA final that read: "Keith McShea, it's blog time!"
Worst fan: Whoever sucker-punched one of the Green Squall's leaders outside Kenmore West after the quarterfinals.
Best bands: Niagara Falls gets the lifetime achievement award, Clymer and Panama are co-winners for their wonderful battle-of-the-bands during the D final.
Best quote: "This group is such a good group of kids, on the court and off the court, I'm really happy for them. For me, it's going to help long-term, because now we're proving to the younger kids that we can win with good kids, and that's going to help our program."
Runners-up: "It's probably the most gut-wrenching loss that I've had as a coach in my 14 years." -- Jamestown coach Ben Drake.
"In 26 years, this is one of my favorite teams." -- said Frontier coach Gary Domzalski.
"Sometimes he'll just say, 'Jump on my back and let's go for a ride.' He took us on a ride." -- Williamsville North coach Chuck Swierski on Sterling Taplin.
"People think we should have won by 20, all I care is that we won." -- Constantino after beating Will North.
"41 years - I've only been alive for 17 - That's a long time." -- Panama senior Nick Lenart.
"I've been wanting this my whole life." -- St. Mary's guard Erik Simmons.
Overheard: Amherst coach Chris Kensy protesting to a call -- very respectfully -- during the A-2 final to official Steve Allen, who officiated Kensy as a player at Maryvale. "Mr. Allen!! Mr. Allen!!"
An official getting the message across (be quiet because you don't want a techinical) to Will North's chirping assistants early in the AA semifinal. "Too important a game! It's too important a game."
After a Maple Grove player committed a dumb foul during the C-2 final, coach Curt Fischer told the player: "Dumb foul!"
After officials conferenced very nicely to reverse an erroneous travel call that had gone against Silver Creek in the C-2 final, Fischer confided to one official: "I hated that call but that was a great call."
Holland coach Tim Schulz watched senior Jordan Farrant unleash an off-balance three and said, "That's a heckuva tough shot, Jordan ... " Of course, it went in.
Larry Jones to an official after his player was called for a foul for pushing back vs. Olean. "That's basketball, he's going to get thrown, and he's going to throw him right back."
After a Depew player fouled out but continued to protest to an official, senior Jaden Cotton displayed some booming senior leadership: "It doesn't matter!"
After a McKinley player missed a fundamentally unsound lay-up, an adult woman from Mack crowd, very loudly: "USE the back-BOARD!!!!"
Highlights: Programs were available on the first day at Buffalo State.
Taplin fouled on a reach-in along the baseline and he classily acknowledged his foul to the official.
Great sportsmanship all week, including big Jermaine Crumpton of Falls giving the head of Jamestown guard Tommy Campion a good rub in the handshake line after the AA final.
Canisius carrying senior Russ Fiorella on its shoulders in celebration after the Manhattan Cup win (Fiorella -- who I've never seen play in a game -- is still a key part of team; he famously went ballistic during halftime last year before Canisius came back to beat St. Joe's).
Dobmeier embracing a disconsolate Taplin after his buzzer-beating attempt missed in the AA semifinals.
Amherst coach Chris Kensy watched a player miss a dunk -- rather than go crazy on the sideline, he just smiled and encouraged him (of course, having a Tiger get the rebound for a three-point play helped).
Will East coming to huddle with fists-a-pumping as their game jelled in the second half against rival (and co-ECIC II champion) Will South.
As the Panama and Clymer bands went back and forth during the D final and the first game of a tripleheader, Holland players, who played the third game, were up and dancing to the big band jams.
Zeddie Williams used a spin move I swear I've seen him use in lacrosse games to earn a foul in the C-2 final.
The smile on Zeddie's Williams' face after securing final rebound of C-2 final, after which he headed to the bench for a big embrace with coach Robert Genco.
The collective gasped-breath sound in the arena on final shots that just missed at the buzzer: Jamestown in the AA final, Will East in the A-1 final, Will North in the AA semifinals, Silver Creek in the C final.
Olean kid at the end of the bench wearing a red T-shirt with yellow "WATERBOY" printed on the upper back.
Lowlights: The concessions at Buffalo State were awful. This year the prices were higher, the inclusion of tax made for odd change being returned, and that was part of an super-slow process that left many fans grumbling -- including this one. I arrived for Tuesday's tripleheader as a fan, got on line during halftime of the first game and got back inside the arena with one minute left in the third quarter.
While the programs were available on Monday at Buffalo State for the first time in forever, a printing error resulted in two pages being included from last year's program. Section VI committee members worked hard to rip out pages so they could continue to sell them, then replacements were printed for later in the week.
That was a popular error this year: The Monsignor Martin program included Timon's roster ... from last season.
Scheduling Part I: For the second straight postseason, the Manhattan Cup final was held on a Wednesday evening at Canisius College while the Section VI A-1 semifinals were held at Buffalo State. This year the Manhattan Cup semifinals were on a Monday while three games were at Buffalo State.
I understand that high school associations are dependent on the host college's schedules, but it might be time to come up with some outside-the-paint thinking.
How about a Hoopfest Championship Week at Buffalo State which would include -- gasp -- Section VI AND Manhattan Cup games? If there are tripleheaders on two nights, how about tripleheaders on three or four nights? Having the Manhattan Cup semifinals on a Sunday -- which has happened in the past -- would certainly help facilitate things.
Sure, I'd like to be able to see all of the games, but this isn't solely a selfish thing. It would be ideal for fans, media, the participants and attendance numbers (and, ahem, the revenues), if the boys basketball playoff spotlight was only shining on one location each night.
Scheduling Part II: Putting the small-school finals at JCC has been a major success and any basketball fan should make the trip down for one of the best environments for a high school event in Western New York -- and that's any sport, any season.
However, the C-1 final played at JCC was between two Erie County schools in OTC Middle College and Holland. Similarly, last year's C final was between I-Prep and Tapestry Charter. Only two of the eight teams in the C-2 bracket were from the Southern Tier this year; classification shifts for next season would obviously be where the discussion should start.
How about playing the C-1 semifinals in tripleheaders on Wednesday and Thursday -- barring my crazy Manhattan Cup final idea happening -- and playing the final at 10:30 a.m. on Championship Saturday at Buffalo State? (Thank you, Holland coach Tim Schulz, for this idea).
I know that would make Saturday even longer, and there may be logisitic issues there with having to staff that long of a day, but having that game closer to fans of the teams might be worth it.
Worst scoreboard: During timeouts, Canisius College's scoreboards -- all six of them or however many there are -- count down the time of the timeouts rather than displaying the time remaining in the game. Drives me crazy. Sure, it might have something to do with me wanting to type in the time in the live blog, but really, don't fans want to know the time left in the game/quarter? Who cares about the how much timeout? Can we keep the time left in the game on the major scoreboards and count down the timeout over the basket or something?
Best assist: Chad Andrews, aka Centercourt of his own blog, loaned me his laptop not once, but twice during Championship Week when technology and I weren't on the same page.
Best-dressed coach: Ben Drake for the umpteenth year. Runner-up: Chris Kensy sported a snazzy Amherst coaches polo shirt; Larry Jones of Depew (until his sideline moves left his tie a little askew).
Best-dressed team: Depew sported sweet baby-blue roadies for B-1 final with Olean.
Best blog color commentary: Chad "centercourt" Andrews during the Friday night championships at JCC: "The best two games of the week so far have been right here. I'm renting a winter cottage in Ellicottville or something."
Best place to read this: At Saturday's Far West Regionals at Buffalo State (which will be previewed in Saturday's paper).
In the bonus: This is the expanded version of the awards that appeared in the paper -- more than twice as much content.
Your call: Have your own winners and losers? Call your own plays in the comments section below.
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