There's no debating that Greg Dolan and Davonte Gaines are two of the best boys basketball players in Western New York.
That's the reason a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,400 showed up at Williamsville South on Saturday night.
The folks, which included scholastic players from other teams in the area, wanted to see Dolan and Gaines – the two future Division I players battle head to head for the first and only time in their scholastic careers during the final game of the inaugural Centercourt Classic.
The matchup between potential player of the year candidates and their respective teams more than lived up to the hype with Dolan once again thriving on the big stage against a marquee opponent.
Dolan, the fourth-year starter and two-time first team All-Western New York selection, scored 20 of his game-high 36 points in the first half, while teammates Robert Richards (19 points) and Devin Degree (16 points) each hit big baskets at key times during the final 16 minutes as the Billies defeated top-ranked Buffalo News small school Health Sciences, 82-77.
South, the News' fifth-ranked large school, used its defense and speed to bolt to a big lead at the start with Dolan scoring 14 of his points during the Billies' 24-9 first quarter. South led by as much as 18 only to see the Falcons storm back and take the lead.
The Billies (13-3) got up off the mat after taking their opponent's best punch and surged ahead for good to extend their winning streak to seven straight and triumph for the 12th time in their last 13 games.
"We had a great crowd there today to see two really fantastic teams battling it out," said Dolan, who also recorded eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. "We knew Ticket (Gaines) and his whole Health Sciences team was going to bring it tonight. … When we come out with energy and lock in on defense it really triggers our offense."
Gaines, the Tennessee commit who posted his third quadruple-double of the season in a win Thursday, finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists in another solid all-around performance. But he had to work for his points, mostly because of the person guarding him – Dolan.
That's not unusual as Dolan is one of the top defenders in the area, so much so that he gave all-time Western New York leading scorer and 2017 Allen Wilson Buffalo News Player of the Year Dominick Welch fits last season whenever the two were matched up against each other.
"It was hard to get open," Gaines said. "Dolan's a great player. … He gets his team going. … He got the best of us tonight."
"I love matching up with them," Dolan said of being tasked with guarding star players. "I love the battles and the competition. These are the games you live for."
Dolan and company certainly played like that at the start and the finish, shrugging off the lightning quick Falcons' pressure tactics.
While Dolan, who is still deciding on whether to accept one of several Division I offers he has or play a year of prep school, had a big first half, he didn't score his first basket until 2 minutes, 34 seconds into the game. The layup off a nice dish from Richards gave the Billies a 9-2 lead. With Health Sciences trailing 12-7, that's when Dolan went on a scoring binge that left the crowd buzzing. He scored the final 12 points of the period.
The Falcons (13-3) switched defensive tactics, slowing down South with zone and that enabled them to pull within 30-21. South still led at the break, 40-26.
Health Sciences, which had a fourth-quarter lead earlier this season in a loss against then No. 1 large school Canisius, stormed back. When Ja'Vaughn Jones drained a three with 5:08 left in the third quarter, the Falcons trailed 40-39. Kameron Briggs (14 points) followed with another three-pointer 39 seconds later to give Health Sciences a 41-40 lead.
It's the only time the defending Section VI Class B champions led against last year's Class A-1 runner-up.
Will South responded with a run of its own with Richards scoring five straight points, the first a three-pointer that ended a scoreless drought of more than four minutes. Dolan followed with a pair of free throws.
Dolan's biggest shot was the one that ended the third quarter as he drained a quick turnaround three with 1 second left to make it 59-51.
"They punched us first," Dolan said. "We knew we had to take it and not let it rattle us."
Though the Falcons pulled within 75-71 late, they never got to within one possession in a game that figures to serve both teams well later this month when the Section VI Tournament begins.
"I'm proud of how our guys played," Falcons coach Ty Parker said. "They just came up a little short. … The ball didn't fall our way this time."