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Friendly rivals fall to New York City

At one point of a boys basketball game Thursday, a Canisius player passed to a St. Joe's player, who passed to a Nichols player for a basket.

Only at the Empire State Games.

Canisius' Justin Young to St. Joe's Phil Scaffidi to Nichols' Will Regan was the combination on that fast-break basket, but Western couldn't come up with enough of them as it lost to New York City, 70-60, in its opening game at Iona University's Hynes Athletic Center.

"At first it was kind of weird, but you get used to it," said Young. "You meet these guys and basically you find out you're the same type of people -- you want to win."

Sylven Landesburg, a slender 6-foot-4 forward from Holy Cross, was the main reason Western fell. Landesburg had 30 points on smooth drives inside as well as jumpers outside (four three-pointers).

Western trailed just 28-27 at halftime, but Landesburg's long-range shooting helped New York City pull away in the second half. After hitting just one three in the first half, he hit three triples that were huge -- pushing New York's lead to eight (41-33), five (46-41) and 11 (62-51).

Fairport's Kyle Downey, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle's Player of the Year last season as a junior, led Western with 26 points, which included a run of 11 in a row that brought Western to within 53-47. Western had trouble finding anyone to supplement Downey's offense and did not come closer than six the rest of the way.

While the trio from the Monsignor Martin Association is expected to lead its traditionally powerful teams this winter, the only Buffalo-area starters for Western were the Frontier frontcourt duo of Jason Norsen and Grant Wrap. Both are 6-5 and heading into their junior year.

Norsen had six points and 11 rebounds while Wrap had five rebounds, a block and a diving-out-of-bounds assist as the pair were on the back line of Western's 2-3 zone.

"For [Grant and I] it's a dream come true," said Norsen. "This competition is unbelievable. Going back home it'll help so much. The players are so quick and so good, it'll help everything with our game."

The Monsignor Martin players are also getting a jump discussing the upcoming season -- although when they talk off the court they're back to being rivals.

"With Will, I was teasing him about that game-winning layup he made [to lead eventual champion Nichols over Canisius in the Manhattan Cup semifinals] -- we're not going to let him do that again next year," said Young, who finished with six points. "Me and Phil go back and forth about who's better -- it's all in fun and competition."

Regan had four points while Scaffidi had two points, three rebounds and two steals.

Western still has a shot at Sunday's medal-round games as it takes on host Hudson Valley at 6 p.m. today and Central at 10 a.m. Saturday.

"There's not a selfish guy on the team, and it's really been a pleasure to coach them," said coach Buddy Bratzke of Batavia High. "It's got to be hard for some of them. They're used to getting major minutes in their high school games, and here they're getting a few minutes here or there, so maybe it's tough for them to get in their rhythm."


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