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Welch sets career scoring record, but South Park ends Cheektowaga's title quest

Dominick Welch got the record he has been pursuing.

He didn't get the Section VI boys basketball championship he and his Cheektowaga teammates had hoped to earn during this season of milestones in Western New York scholastic sports.

Western New York has a new all-time career boys scoring leader. It's Welch with 2,376 points.

The senior eclipsed one of the area's most hallowed records in no-doubt-about-it fashion at the mecca for Section VI postseason basketball on Tuesday night before a standing-room only crowd of more than 3,000 at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.

But those tears he shed on the court after the Warriors' Class A-2 semifinal weren't joyful ones.

South Park played the role of spoiler as Welch's 45-point effort wasn't enough to save Cheektowaga as the Sparks advanced to Saturday's championship game with a 74-64 victory.

A standing-room only crowd of more than 3,000 attended the Section VI Class A-2 semifinal between Cheektowaga and South Park on Tuesday night at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

Welch needed 25 points to break the mark of 2,355 set by 1990 Buffalo News Player of the Year Ritchie Campbell. He had 18 at halftime and scored the first eight points of the third quarter to eliminate the suspense as to whether he'd get the record.

"It's just a humbling feeling," said Welch, a returning first team All-Western New York selection. "I know it means a lot to my parents, my school and my teammates but the season didn't end the way I wanted it to end. I just wanted to win. I didn't care if I got the record tonight."

Welch got the mark with 6 minutes, 12 seconds left in the third as he scored on coast-to-coast layup, getting fouled on the play.

Section officials stopped the game at that point to honor Welch, bringing his parents on the court and giving him a commemorative ball. He also pointed to Campbell, who watched from the standing-room only portion of the concourse.

Campbell had told Welch earlier this season after he scored 40 points against Canisius that he was pulling for him to make a run at the mark. Mission accomplished.

"That was awesome," Campbell said. "I was just happy to see it done. I think he has a bright future. He played a great game. I just wish he could've won the game and ended it with a bang. I'm happy for the kid."

This is the third Western New York scholastic record to fall this season. Olean's Jeff Anastasia broke Mel Palano's career boys basketball coaching wins mark in January. During the football season, St. Francis quarterback Jerry Hickson set the career passing yards record -- passing former Williamsville South and University at Buffalo great Joe Licata.

Welch almost willed the Warriors to a victory in comeback fashion as the team seemed to feed off the energy generated by the accomplishment.

Cheektowaga (14-8) trailed 44-26 at halftime, but Welch scored 23 of his team's 26 points during the third quarter as the Warriors pulled within 54-52 – setting up a thrilling finish before a super-charged crowd. Cheektowaga tied it at 56-56 on a layup by Vaughn Burdette with 5:39 left.

But the record and storybook finish were not in the cards.

Khalil White hit a tough runner a few seconds later to spark South Park's 18-8 closing run. Shakur Harris scored seven of his team-high 28 points in the fourth for the Sparks (17-4), who also received 18 points from Ray Mushat with White scoring all four of his points during the decisive run.

The victory means South Park, which ended its Yale Cup title drought of more than three decades this season, will now try to win its first Section VI championship since 1985.

"We figured he was going to get the record," Sparks coach Pete Hudecki said. "We just wanted to concentrate on how we were going to win the game. … I think our guys played great as a team."

Welch hoped to be playing for the title at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Wednesday night's Olean versus Amherst contest.

That doesn't change the fact he leaves a legacy of excellence at Cheektowaga.

The Warriors won a sectional title in 2014 and captured their first ECIC title since 1963 when it shared the ECIC III crown with East Aurora.

"He has nothing to hang his head about," Cheektowaga coach Patrick Cullinan said. "To play like that on the big stage. … He's one of the best high school players to ever come out of Western New York.

"I feel bad for him and the other seniors that it ended tonight."

WNY's all-time boys basketball points leaders

  1. Dominick Welch, Cheektowaga 2,376 2017
  2. Ritchie Campbell, DeSales/Burgard 2,355 1990
  3. Ryan Whelpley, Archbishop Walsh 2,347 2012
  4. Damien Foster, Traditional 2,324 1996
  5. Jason Rowe, Traditional 2,286 1996
  6. Marcus Whitfield, Burgard 2,285 1989
  7. Maceo Wofford, Jamestown 2,259 1999
  8. Mike Heary, Fredonia 2,235 1994
  9. Curtis Aiken, Bennett 2,162 1983
  10. Chris Moore, Park 2,161 1996
  11. Chris Secky, Maple Grove 2,067 2010
  12. Christian Laettner, Nichols 2,066 1988

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