If you want to run with McKinley, you better be ready to run for four quarters.
Cheektowaga found that out in Tuesday’s Section VI Class A championship before an estimated 1,800 at Buffalo State, as the Macks outran the Warriors in the second half to win their second straight title, 67-53, and earn a return trip to the state tournament.
“We knew that if we ran with them, we could tire them out,” said McKinley coach Zaire Dorsey. “They weren’t a very deep team from what we saw on film the other night, so we just wanted to get their jump-shooters tired, run them up and down the court and wear them out in the fourth quarter.”
McKinley (16-6), which graduated all of its starters from last year’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A championship team, will return to Buffalo State at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the Far West Regionals.
The Macks will play the winner of tonight’s Section V (Rochester area) championship — East High (16-4) vs. Geneva (19-2) at Rush-Henrietta at 7 p.m. — for the right to advance to the state final four.
McKinley took a 15-10 lead after one quarter and was up 32-31 at halftime in what was often a sloppy, frenetic game. The Macks’ lead after three quarters was 45-41, and it claimed control of the game with a 10-0 run to start the fourth to go up 55-41.
“We got that lead up to eight, and then nine, and then we just started rolling,” said Dorsey.
D’Andre Steward had 17 points, while fellow senior Varin Lenard had 16 as they combined for 23 of their 33 points in a second half in which the Macks turned Cheektowaga misses into fast-break points.
“We did what we had to do — come out, run and do what we had to do,” said Lenard. “We’ve got some fast players — Keyon Johnson came off the bench, we’ve got a better bench than most teams. Our bench plays hard for us. We played our game. It’s a team effort more than anything, and we’re really coached well.”
Sophomore Keyon Johnson had an excellent game off the bench on both ends of the floor, and he also contributed 16 points.
“We played as a team,” said Steward. “There’s new people on the team — they learn new things, we learn new things. It’s a team, it’s like a family, and we all learn together.”
Junior Patrick Plummer had 18 points to lead Cheektowaga (16-6) while 6-2 freshman Dominick Welch had 14 points, including a crowd-stunning one-handed jam in traffic in the fourth quarter as Cheektowaga was fighting to the back under double digits.
Junior Trequon Trotter had 10 points while several Warriors stepped up to score as the Macks focused on junior guard Zak Ciezki, who was held scoreless.
“It was just that one run late that we didn’t respond to, all the credit to McKinley,” said Cheektowaga coach Patrick Cullinan.
The Warriors’ A-2 championship was the first sectional title in the school’s boys basketball history.
“We talked about what we accomplished this season,” Cullinan said of the team’s postgame meeting. “We feel we’ve left a legacy with the first title in program history, but no matter what we did, it always hurts when it ends. … We’ll be back. We’ve just started something.”