It’s a great problem to have this time of year.
How does a team fresh off winning a state championship get up for another weekend of basketball in which there’s another state title on the line?
It’s a great question, one that recently inducted New York State Basketball Hall of Fame coach Jeff Anastasia of Olean spent the early part of the week attempting to solve when he opted to play the most logical card in his hand.
“Honestly, how many teams can say they went 29-0?” he said. “This is the last week you’ll be playing together as a team. Let’s go out there and show the New York City and Catholic schools champions that Olean is for real.”
The Huskies (27-0) look to cap their unbeaten season with the perfect conclusion beginning Saturday with a 3 p.m. Federation Tournament Class B boys basketball semifinal contest against PSAL champion Kipp Academy at Times Union Center in Albany. The winner advances to the final at 4 p.m. Sunday against either Salesian (CHSAA) or Collegiate School (AISAA).
Olean isn’t the only area state champion in action in Albany.
Canisius begins its quest to defend its Class A Federation Tournament title at 11 a.m. Friday against Alliance of Independent Schools champion Albany Academy (16-4) in a rematch of last year’s Fed final, which the Crusaders (26-2) won 48-44.
In the girls portion of the Federation Tournament of Champions, Sacred Heart hits the floor at 11 a.m. Saturday when the Catholic High School Athletic Association champions face Staten Island Academy, which won the Alliance of Independent Schools crown.
The winner plays Jamesville-Dewitt or Herbert H. Lehman of PSAL for the title at noon Sunday.
“It’s an awesome experience,” said Sharks coach Debbie Laux. “I’m proud of the way the girls played. … We’re going to have to feed off the energy we have from last weekend.”
Some more sage advice that perhaps Olean can follow, too, as it gears up for its toughest test to date. The Huskies face a Kipp crew that’s athletic and runs a four-guard offense. It likes to press and run with senior Xavier Nunez (20 ppg) leading the charge. Jason Valera averages 13 for the Bulldogs.
“They’re strong at the guards,” Anastasia said. “They have a big man who moves very well. We have to play solid defense. We definitely have to stop dribble penetration.
“We just have to be able to protect the ball. They’re a good team.”
So is Olean. Teams don’t go 27-0 by accident.
“You can’t do any better than going undefeated and winning the Federation title,” Anastasia said.
A Federation title at Class A would be the area’s second in three years if Sacred Heart is able to keep the momentum going from last week’s state Catholic Tournament triumph. The Sharks are coming off their first state Catholic title since 1993. They last won a Fed title in Class D back in 1992.
If they’re going to end that drought, the Sharks will have to slow down a deep team with size that likes to press. Corinn Baggs is Staten Island’s top scorer, averging 17.5 ppg.
“We’re going to have to be patient against their press, find the open girl, run our offense and make then play defense rather than pressing,” Laux said.
Another big game from Sarah Young, Micaela Ryan and Danielle Hore also could aid the Sharks. Young, a St. Bonaventure commit, recorded a double-double that included 26 points. Ryan averaged 16 points in the two wins last weekend in New York City, while Hore controlled pace at the point guard and averaged six assists in each state Catholic tournament win.