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St. Joe's, Nichols, Nardin, Holy Angels vie for titles

St. Joe's varsity assistant coach Ben Scaffidi doesn't have very fond memories of Mount St. Michael, but he's hoping that will change.

For the first time since Scaffidi played guard for the Marauders in 1995, St. Joe's will play Mount St. Michael of the Bronx with a state title on the line. The Mount won the 1995 game, 73-53, handing Joe's its only loss (24-1).

The New York State Catholic Championships are Saturday at Niagara University's Gallagher Center. The Marauders (26-1) play the Mount (26-1) at 2:30 p.m. for the Class A title. Nichols (15-11) plays Blessed Sacrament (18-3) of New York City for the Class B crown at 1 p.m.

The winners will represent the CHSAA at next weekend's Federation tourney in Glens Falls.

"That was my last game," Scaffidi said. "I think they had two guys who ended up going to the Big East. I think it's a little different now. We were able to watch one of their games on MSG. In the last 10 years it's been easier to find out about a team in New York City even though it's 400 miles away."

That means the Marauders know all about the Mount's 6-foot-8 forward Alejo Rodriguez, who signed early with Iona. St. Joe's coach Mark Simon said he'll use multiple defenses to try to contain him.

St. Joe's is coming off a dramatic double overtime road win over St. John the Baptist of Long Island in the state semis.

"To go 400 miles and fight back from the dead two times like we did is a testament to our kids," Simon said. "Devon Dawson has been our best player. He's had 12-14 games with double-doubles and he can score when we need him."

Tickets at the gate are $7 for adults and $3 for students.

Class B: Ian Walton of Nichols looks to cap his senior year with a win over Blessed Sacrament. Nichols is a private school in Buffalo, but is playing for a Catholic title because the school is a member of the Monsignor Martin Association.

"I know they have a 6-9 guard -- that's what the program says anyway," second-year Nichols coach Greg Plumb said. "I know they're a real run-and-gun kind of team. They are very athletic. We're going to have a tough time keeping up with them on a big court. We've got to do a good job of getting back and keep the ball out of the paint to keep it close."

Walton, a 6-1 guard, averages 18 points per game while point guard Javon Slaughter averages 13.1. Plumb called junior guard Michael White "the hardest working kid in our program as far as pure hustle every day."

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Girls basketball

Nardin and Holy Angels play for Catholic state titles Sunday at St. John's University.

Class B: Nardin (20-6) will face St. Thomas Aquinas of the Bronx (25-3) hoping to land the school's first state title.

Among the Gators' many challenges will be guarding Judith Ray, a 2,000-point scorer headed to Rutgers. She's the younger sister of Allen Ray, the Villanova senior who suffered an eye injury in the recent Big East Tournament.

Nardin played Aquinas two years ago, and despite being within four points at halftime, lost, 57-41. Five Nardin players are back from that team.

Nardin coach Jake Herlihy said he has more of a presence in the middle this time with single-season scoring leader Kendra Brim (438 points) and Sarah Sciarrino.

Class C: Holy Angels (15-13) will take on Sacred Heart of Long Island (14-9).

Sacred Heart point guard Mary Spicer has had postseason games of 12 and 11 assists. Angels coach Fran Snyder said he's going to ask 5-8 Lauren Long to cover Spicer, but he'll also pack a 3-2 zone and cheat on Spicer.

"I was thinking they had only one player, but I was looking through some of the scores and they have four players that score a lot," Snyder said. "I think they're pretty balanced."

Ann Cassell of the Angels is coming off a 21-point game against Stella Maris of Queens and Jackie Pienkowski is playing her best basketball of the season.

e-mail: mmonnin@buffnews.com

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