Maryvale is used to setting up residence this time of year at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. In fact, the News' No. 4 large school has become downright cozy in these confines the past two seasons, having won Section VI championships each time.
But neighborhood friend Cheektowaga almost made the Flyers' stay at the arena shorter than usual. The Warriors may have succeeded if not for the efforts of seniors Santo Lamar and Garrett Kensy along with junior Matt Mohr. The trio scored all but six of Maryvale's points as the Flyers survived a serious challenge from Cheektowaga, 58-47, Tuesday night in a Class A-2 boys semifinal before an estimated 1,000 fans.
Lamar scored a game-high 21 points, while Kensy scored nine of his 13 in the fourth quarter. Mohr's career-high 18 points proved to be huge as Maryvale (21-1) used runs of 16-0 and 11-0 to rally from a pair of deficits in extending its winning streak to 20.
"It's a great accomplishment for us," Kensy said of advancing to the title game against Olean. "We know it's not going to be easy. We've got to come out and play better basketball and take care of the basketball."
Olean earned a 52-48 win over Williamsville South in the other A-2 semifinal, a game in which coach Jeff Anastasia gambled by leaving superstar Zach Moore in the game after the junior picked up his fourth foul late in the third quarter. Moore scored 10 of his game-high 16 points after picking up that foul to help the News' No. 5 large school turn back a Billies' squad that came into the game averaging 74 points.
"The way I looked at it, he's no good [to us] on the bench," said Anastasia, who watched South trim a 22-10 second-quarter deficit with Moore on the bench with two fouls. "I said, 'I'm just going with a gut decision to leave him in the game.' "
Chris O'Connell led the Billies with 13 points.
In the Class B-2 semifinal, Burgard looked right at home in its first Buffalo State appearance in four years, earning a methodical 61-44 win over a scrappy John F. Kennedy.
Maryvale carried a 28-20 lead into the third quarter when all five Cheektowaga starters scored during a 15-0 quarter-opening run.
Cheektowaga's Chris Huggins-Weaver (14 points, seven rebounds) drained a spinner on the baseline, point guard Mike Lewis sank two layups, Kevin Hairston canned a trey, Mike Maloney (15 points, 10 boards) hit a floater in the lane and pull-up jumper, while Jamar Nevins' jumper made it 35-28 with three minutes left in the quarter.
But Lamar scored seven points during a quarter-ending 11-0 run with Kensy nailing two free throws and setting up a Mohr lay-up. Kensy opened the fourth with a trey to push the lead to 42-35. After Lewis scored on a coast-to-coast layup to pull Cheektowaga within 44-40, Maryvale used an 8-1 run to pull away.
Cheektowaga (14-9) came into the season having won a mere seven games the past two years, including a 1-20 campaign during 2003-04.
Burgard's Marquis Ware and Leon Nelson proved to be a handful for JFK. Ware scored eight of his game-high 26 points in the second quarter to help the Bulldogs turn an 18-12 lead into a 33-20 halftime advantage. Nelson finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks.
Burgard will face City Honors for the title at noon Saturday, the same school it lost to in its last championship game appearance at Buffalo State.
In Class D semifinal action in Jamestown, Clymer used a a 21-11 third-quarter run to get itself out of an offensive funk in a 49-35 win over Ellicottville (12-10). Nate Smith led Clymer (18-3) with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Monte Bailey added 12 and Tyler Bailey 11.
Ellicottville held a 12-11 lead at halftime. "We shot 15 percent in the first half," Clymer coach Irv King said. "We just couldn't buy a bucket. We got some good looks in the third quarter and shot much better."
Sherman earned a 48-35 win over West Valley in the other Class D semifinal. Duncon Calhoun had 11 points for the Pirates.
"We got out to a good start, hit a few shots and went up, 15-7, after the first quarter," Sherman coach Cory Emory said. "We were able to extend that and the rest of the game was a 10-15 point lead."
Clymer and Sherman will play at 7:45 p.m. Friday at Jamestown Community College.
For the third straight year Lockport claimed the Section VI girls' bowling title. The Lady Lions defeated Frontier by 92 pins over six games in the competition at Thruway Lanes.
Tonawanda sophomore Gina Maduri was the top individual qualifier for the second straight year. She totaled 1,250 over six games. Maduri is averaging 209 this season.
Leading the Lockport team was junior Kerri Meden with a total of 1,183 followed by senior Marion Singleton (1,152), junior Alyssa Neglia (1,125), freshman Jenna Geiger (1,013) and senior Jill Kipp (916).
Individuals qualifying for the sectional team included Lew-Port junior Savannah Zientara (1,200), Frontier sophomore Ally Harvey (1,182), Sweet Home junior Nicky Volker (1,149), Kenmore East senior Valerie Daniel (1,147) and West Seneca East sophomore Andrea Zengerski (1,135).
The New York state tournament will be held on Saturday and Sunday at Strikes and Spares Lanes in Liverpool.