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All-WNY boys basketball: Cheektowaga's Welch's second to none in earning Allen Wilson News Player of the Year honor

Humble Beast.

That’s the name of a soon-to-be-released album by rapper G Herbo.

It’s also the moniker adopted by Cheektowaga senior Dominick Welch – the 2016-17 Allen Wilson Buffalo News Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

It’s the perfect nickname for the 6-foot-6 athletic phenomenon. Welch, a two-time All-Western New York first-team selection, doesn’t like talking about himself, even though he was forced to do a lot of that during a season in which he broke the Western New York career scoring record. The rest of the name best describes Welch the player.

Welch was a beast on the court, as he used his off-the-chart talent to craft a historic season for Cheektowaga and himself.

Welch averaged a school-record 30.4 points with 12.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.0 blocks and 2.0 steals per game in helping the Warriors earn a share of the ECIC III championship – their first division title since 1963 – and reach the Section VI Class A-2 semifinals.

Welch is the first athlete from Cheektowaga to earn News Player of the Year.

“I don’t think you will ever see a player with Dom’s skill set who is as unselfish,” Cheektowaga coach Patrick Cullinan said. “Very rarely did he force things and he always tried to utilize his teammates and set them up and never felt he had to score, just had to do whatever was needed to put the team in a good spot.

“He sees the court so well and throws the extra pass and he just makes plays. ... His basketball IQ and ability to take what the defense was giving, and exploit it, was so impressive.”

The All-Western New York team and Player of the Year are selected by The News in consultation with area coaches and scholastic basketball aficionados.

Welch was a slam-dunk player-of-the-year selection but not because he set the Western New York career points record (2,376) – a mark that had stood for 27 years. The New York State Mr. Basketball finalist captured the honor because he proved himself to be the best all-around player in the area with a skill set coveted by Division I coaches.

Cheektowaga's Dominick Welch averaged a school record 30.4 points per game with 12.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists in helping the Warriors win their first division title since 1963. He finished his five-season career with 2,376 points, a Western New York record. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Welch isn’t just a great leaper with the ability to throw down highlight-reel dunks and protect the rim with authoritative blocks. He can run the point. He has great court vision and awareness. He can bury the three and, as he showed on his record-breaking basket, has the ability to quickly dribble around defenders who are trying to stop him, making it seem like they’re standing still.

“Dom has freakish athleticism,” Cullinan said. “I feel his best strength is his versatility. His ability to not only play all positions but dominate at each one is what makes him so special.”

Like all special players, he delivered perhaps his best performances in the Warriors’ biggest games. The most important ones came late in the season, with Welch averaging 36.7 points over his final seven-game stretch.

With Cheektowaga needing a win in its regular-season finale to share the division title with East Aurora, Welch scored a school-record 51 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and dished out six assists in a 94-40 win over a good Depew team that, like the Warriors, won 14 games.

Welch, who had nine games in which he scored at least 30 points and six in which he finished with at least 40, considers that contest as one of his most memorable. Of course, there’s another that ranks right up there.

That would be his last one – the game where he passed 1990 News Player of the Year Ritchie Campbell for No. 1 on the Western New York points list.

Folks arrived early that Feb. 28 evening to make sure they had a seat for the final game of a semifinal tripleheader at Buffalo State. Before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,000, Welch put on a show right from the start as he finished with 45 points and eight rebounds in a tough loss to South Park.

Needing just 25 points to pass Campbell’s total of 2,355, Welch had 18 by halftime. He seized the record early in the third quarter by scoring the first eight points of the frame to earn a standing ovation from the fans – including Campbell.

That burst was part of a 23-point period by Welch – which fell two points shy of his own school record for most points in a quarter.

He did not do all of that to make the points record tough to topple for future players. His only concern was doing what needed to be done to help the Warriors rally from an 18-point halftime deficit and give them a chance at the victory.

They tied the game with under six minutes left but the quest to win their second sectional title since 2014 fell just short against the Yale Cup I champions.

“He would trade his records for team success in a second, but he has earned everything he’s achieved,” Cullinan said. “He has helped establish exactly what we expect from the players in our program, and although he has set some pretty high standards for success from a team and individual standpoint, that’s exactly what we want out kids to strive and surpass as they make their own mark.”

Welch completed his five seasons at Cheektowaga holding school records for points in a season (668), scoring  average in a season (30.4), career rebounds (1,200) and career blocks (287).

Of course, there’s one more record the “Humble Beast” owns. It’s the mark Campbell told him to seize after watching Welch score 40 of Cheektowaga’s 61 points against Canisius during the team’s second game of the season.

“I’ve been working my whole career to get where I’m at now,” Welch said. “Back then in eighth grade I didn’t know I’d be in the situation now. My hard work that I put in when I was younger paid off.

“It’s been a long journey. It’s upsetting that it’s over. I love playing year after year for Cheektowaga. … I enjoyed every part of this year and I felt I left my mark.”

“Humble Beast” did just that.

In fact, he did it in Dominating fashion.

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