It may be mid-January, but Friday's Yale Cup boys' basketball contest between McKinley and Grover Cleveland sure felt like a playoff game. Right up to Grover's students storming their court after the buzzer.
Anthony Greene scored 22 points, Tyshawn Edwards and Anthony Caba made key steals in last two minutes and Ernest Maddox hit two free throws in the final 32 seconds as Grover edged McKinley, 70-68.
The game had the feel of the Yale Cup title being on the line because it just might have been. Although the Buffalo Public Schools season is just two weeks old, Grover (8-4, 4-0) and McKinley (6-3, 2-1) are both top 10 large schools and favorites to win the league. East (8-1, 3-0), one of Western New York's strongest small schools, will certainly have a major impact on the league race, but so will Friday's result.
"This was a big one and we knew it would be from the beginning of the year," Grover coach Earl Schunk said. "One thing I like about this team -- we played nine [players] and you really need depth like that in a game with this much emotion and passion. You can play hard and don't have to worry about getting guys in foul trouble."
Grover overcame McKinley's 23-10 first quarter as Greene -- who was scoreless in the first -- scored 10 points in the second to bring the Presidents to within 39-37 at halftime. It was a back-and-forth battle the rest of the way, with Grover taking a 58-56 lead into the fourth.
The Presidents led, 65-58, with 4:25 to go but McKinley scored seven straight points to take a 66-65 lead with 1:56 left. After a Grover miss, McKinley ran the shot clock down nearly all the way but Edwards stole a pass into the lane and turned it into a layup, and Caba (16 points, three three-pointers) followed with a steal and a free throw for a 68-66 lead with 52.5 seconds to play.
Tamere Shannon tied it with a hanging jumper in the lane with 35 seconds left before Grover took the lead on a free throw by Maddox. McKinley turned the ball over on its next possession and Maddox hit another free throw for the 70-68 lead with 14.6 seconds to play. After two stoppages and two missed free throws by Grover, Shannon's half-court heave at the buzzer came up just short.
McKinley junior guard William Robinson scored all 10 of his points and had several great assists in the first half but he picked up his fourth foul in the third quarter. All five Mack starters were in double figures with sophomore Mansa Habeeb scoring a team-high 16. Senior Mark Overall added 15.
"Whoever won this game -- and both teams knew it -- was going to be in the driver's seat," said McKinley coach James Daye.