Monsignor Martin Association basketball fans had a tough choice to make Saturday afternoon: Two Manhattan Cup quarterfinal doubleheaders were scheduled for the same time, at two different schools.
It turned out that Bishop Timon-St. Jude was definitely the place to be — especially for the final seconds of the Tigers’ game.
Senior Donte Williams went the length of the floor to score with 2.4 seconds left to give No. 2 seed Bishop Timon-St. Jude a thrilling, come-from-behind, 59-57 victory over seventh-seeded St. Francis, which had led for most of the fourth quarter.
In the second game, third-seeded St. Mary’s, the No. 4 small school in The News poll, used a 20-10 third quarter to beat No. 8 large school St. Joe’s for the second time this season, 67-58.
Meanwhile, at Canisius, the host, top seed and No. 1 large school Crusaders easily beat Niagara Catholic, 87-56. The second game was the No. 4-vs. No. 5 seeding matchup, which is supposed to be the most competitive game, but fifth-seeded Nichols jumped on fourth-seeded Park from the start — 27-3 after one quarter — and ran away with a 66-51 win.
The final four is at Canisius High on Wednesday. Canisius plays Nichols at 6 p.m., followed by St. Mary’s against Timon at 7:30.
For most of its matchup with St. Francis, it appeared that Timon might stunningly not make it there. The Red Raiders, who played league opponents very tough in the last week of the season, did so again with a spirited effort in which they overcame a six-point halftime deficit to take a 46-44 lead entering the fourth quarter. St. Francis was up by as many as six (54-48) with 4:23 left and 57-53 entering the final minute.
Timon freshman William Lamar hit a stop-and-pop jumper to tie the game with 22.1 seconds left, and after a St. Francis miss, Timon got the ball under its own basket with 7.7 seconds remaining.
“Make sure Donte got the ball, and let him make something happen,” were Timon coach Joe Mihalics’ words to his team in the huddle. “And he did. He made a great play.”
Williams, who had 18 points as did junior Derick Simpson, got the short inbounds pass from the baseline, dribbled down the right side and then into the lane, elevating and finishing with a high one-handed floater. Junior Kordell Holness-Lightbody had 21 points for St. Francis while senior Maurice Burse had 18.
“I told my guys, man, they deserved this one,” said St. Francis coach Brian Ferris. “We played our butt off.”
For St. Mary’s, the win was extremely important due to the way the Monsignor Martin determines its Class B (small school) state playoff berth. The league mandates that the Class B team that advances furthest in the Manhattan Cup playoffs will be the representative. With small schools Park and Nichols meeting in a quarterfinal, that meant that if St. Mary’s had lost to St. Joe’s, a large (Class A) school, St. Mary’s would be out of the playoffs despite it clearly being the best Monsignor Martin B team all season (it swept two games from both Nichols and Park).
“Our seniors came through,” said St. Mary’s coach Paul Rath. “They knew what was on the line.”
The Lancers made sure their season would continue with an excellent third quarter, which flipped a three-point halftime deficit to a 48-41 lead. The quarter was typified by the Lancers’ usual energetic defense and excellent ball movement on offense, which was twice finished off with three-pointers by junior Dione Strong. Tyler English had 23 points while fellow senior Latrell Tyson had 14.
If St. Mary’s and Nichols both lose in the semifinals, there will be a Class B playoff next Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Canisius College and the Manhattan Cup final will be at 8. If a B game is not necessary, the Manhattan Cup final will start at 6:30.
Nichols’ tremendous start overwhelmed a Park team with which it has split two close games during the regular season. Chris Miner, a 6-6 junior, got many of his 21 points inside as he surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career (he is now at 1,010). Thomas Nuttle had three three-pointers among his 13 points for Nichols.
Canisius expectedly rolled past Niagara Catholic, which beat Cardinal O’Hara in a Thursday play-in game. The Crusaders had four double-figure scorers, led by senior Ryan Richards (19).