Watch the Maryvale boys basketball team warm up before a game and look for the player with "Comeback Kid" on the back of his shooting shirt.
What did he come back from?
A broken fibula. A completely ruptured deltoid ligament. A senior football season taken away. College football dreams disrupted. Surgery. Six screws and a plate in his foot. Rehab before school. Rehab after school. In the pool, on the bike, then on his feet. Three to five hours every day.
When Garrett Kensy suffered his injury in a football game on Sept. 9, the diagnosis was that he wouldn't be able to play sports for four to six months. Three months later -- actually, one day short of three months -- Kensy reported to the scorer's table in the consolation game of the Al Pastor Tournament and helped Maryvale beat Williamsville North.
Two and a half months after that, Maryvale hasn't missed a step: the Flyers are 17-1, ranked fourth among Western New York large schools and headed toward their second straight ECIC III title at 10-0. The Flyers are also on track to be the top seed in the Section VI tournament (seedings will be announced Saturday) as they attempt to win their third straight Class A-2 title.
"I really pushed myself to get back and prove everyone else wrong," said Kensy, a third-team All-Western New York basketball pick last year. "We had a lot of high hopes for football, and for that to happen it goes from a high to a low real quickly. Every kid dreams of playing senior year, and a lot of [colleges looking at Kensy for football] backed off because because of the injury. But everything happens for a reason.
"I just know not to take things for granted. I love competing and athletics and you have to celebrate every moment you have."
Kensy's football season ended on the first play of the second game. He caught the opening kickoff and saw an opening. He planted his left foot. And a defender's helmet crashed right into it. He had met with Army football coach Bobby Ross prior to the injury and Kensy received a Congressional appointment to West Point. He has yet to decide where to attend school, but several Division II and III schools are interested in football or basketball, with a handful recruiting him for both.
On the basketball court his coach and father, Mark Kensy, calls him the team's "heart and soul." Kensy is a do-it-all player who averages 16.4 points and leads the team with 5.4 assists and 7.6 rebounds while helping orchestrate the Flyers on the floor. Slick-scoring Santo Lamar leads the team with 22 points per game, junior Matt Brennan is a great post presence, junior Matt Mohr has had several high-scoring games and veteran seniors Ryan Ellsworth and Mike Schichtel provide smart, seasoned depth after being a part of the Flyers' previous postseasons. The Flyers' only loss was to Riverside in the opener of the Al Pastor.
A look at the pool of A-2 teams points to a possible matchup with Olean (19-0), ranked fifth among large schools. Maryvale already owns quality A-2 wins over league rival Williamsville South (twice), Cheektowaga, Pioneer and Amherst. Cheektowaga gets a shot at the host Flyers Friday in their regular season finales.
>Studying for finales
There are plenty of games during this final week of the regular season which are not only pivotal league matchups but will offer a sneak preview of the postseason as everyone sizes up their sectional classmates.
Today the ECIC IV top spot is on the line between two teams who are very likely to meet again in the B-1 playoffs: Lackawanna, which beat East Aurora, 63-55, on Jan. 12, hosts the Blue Devils at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday's Niagara-Orleans championship will feature two B-1 teams that split their season series: ranked small schools Newfane and Medina.
Wednesday's Yale Cup finales are headlined by the showdown between Riverside and a deep, talented McKinley team which will be a serious threat in the A-1 bracket. There's also another city battle of top A-1 teams: Lafayette aims to close out one of its best seasons in years with a win at Grover Cleveland.
Defending Class C champion Silver Creek has been playing well of late and finishes with two stern tests against teams that would like to dethrone them in the weeks to come: the Black Knights are at Randolph Tuesday and at Falconer Friday.
The AA teams who make up ECIC I continue to slug it out, and some of them are certain to keep doing it next week: on Tuesday, Orchard Park is at Jamestown and A-1 contender Sweet Home is at Frontier; on Friday surging Williamsville North is at Orchard Park.
On Sunday, the marquee Monsignor Martin Association matchup has Canisius at St. Joe's at 3:30 p.m. while Monday pits top small schools as Nichols plays at Niagara Catholic. The MMA postseason starts with the Feb. 26 quarterfinals.
>Bad seeds in sectionals
The sectional seedings, particularly in Class AA, are likely going to make some fans scratch their heads. Entering the week, the teams near the top of the poll -- No. 2 Niagara Falls and No. 3 Riverside -- are slotted in the fifth and sixth seeds due to Falls' losing a few games in its independent schedule and Riverside having its power rating hurt because it is the only AA school in the Yale Cup. Throw in a competitive ECIC I (three teams in the top 10, but they sap their power rating when they beat each other) and a down year for the Niagara Frontier League (no ranked teams) and things get weirder. Right now, the top seed would be Lockport based on its 9-1 NFL mark; the Lions are 0-8 in nonleague games.
Section VI uses a power points system based on school size. Each year there are quirks in where teams fall. The benefit is that it takes the decision-making out of the section's hands so there are no endless debates over where teams should fall.
"It's a flawed method, but if any other method were used I think it would be worse," said Section VI boys basketball chairman Jim Walker. "All the way up and down the line there would be decisions and you could be debating it forever. And a team could be ranked fifth or 105th, but if they're the best team, they're going to win."
Here's a nightmare scenario for hoop fans: If Niagara Falls and Riverside occupy the fourth and fifth seeds, they would play in a quarterfinal at a school site. Since the beginning of the season, fans have anticipated a potential meeting in the AA final.