St. Joe's and Sweet Home both earned trips to the state championships in Glens Falls last year, and their matchup Friday night certainly felt like a postseason game.
Andrew Passage hit two free throws with 3.8 seconds left to give St. Joe's a 58-57 victory over Sweet Home in the marquee game of the Monsignor Martin-ECIC Challenge hosted by St. Mary's of Lancaster.
Terrell Rankin (15 points) scored on a driving layup with seven seconds to go to give Sweet Home a one-point lead. After Sweet Home led, 27-25, at half, St. Joe's built an eight-point lead in the third quarter before the Panthers surged into the lead. The teams went back and forth in the final quarter.
"It was a great high school basketball game," said St. Joe's coach Mark Simon, whose team made the state Catholic final in Class A last year. "Two great teams, an exciting game, and either one could have won down the stretch. It was fantastic."
John Greer scored 16 points, Phil Scaffidi had 14 while Domonic Cook had 10 points and six assists for the Marauders. Passage finished with 10 points.
"He's spent his whole life practicing those two free throws at the end of the game," Simon said of Passage. "He calmly went up there -- the first rolled in, and the second was nothing but net. He's all about key shots."
Glenroy Carr had 20 points while Ali Ramadan contributed 10 for Sweet Home, which advanced to the state public school final in Class A last year.
In other action at the Challenge, a great all-around game by Marcus Rivers and a 21-14 fourth quarter helped Lackawanna break away from Southtowns neighbor St. Francis, 72-59. Rivers had 32 points, 17 rebounds, six steals and five assists while brother Woodrow Rivers contributed 11 points for the Steelers (2-0), ranked second among small schools. Kevin Roth and John Schichtel each had 14 for No. 7 large school St. Francis.
Garrison Gross scored 32 points, James Ewing had eight of his 15 in a 27-15 fourth quarter and Dennis Weppner went 9 of 10 from the free throw line as Cardinal O'Hara beat Williamsville North, 70-61.
TOM KEENAN MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT: The local participants will play in today's 1 p.m. consolation game after losing to two of the state's better teams. Host Canisius fell, 61-44, to defending Section V champion Fairport, which lost to Niagara Falls in last year's Far West Regionals. Kevin Borden led Fairport with 17. McKinley fell to New York City's St. Francis Prep, 75-49. "They had five players who were 6-foot-5, and they could all shoot," said McKinley coach James Daye.
NIAGARA FRONTIER: Niagara Falls was one of the last teams in Western New York to begin its season, and it made it worth the wait with a 110-53 romp at Lew-Port. New coach Giulio Colangelo opened his head coaching career with a win behind reigning Player of the Year Jonathan Flynn, who scored 31 points despite sitting most of the second half.
Falls' lead was only 24-21 after the first quarter thanks in large part to the scoring of Lew-Port sophomore Rob Seyler, who scored 17 of his 18 in the first half. Mike Crumpton had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Falls, which used a 30-6 third quarter to take an 83-37 lead.
In other opening action in the Niagara Frontier League, Edvin Ramulic (13 points) hit a turnaround, 8-foot jump shot in traffic with five seconds left to complete an enormous comeback for Kenmore West in a 55-54 win over Lockport. Joe Mogavero added 12 rebounds and five steals for West, which closed the game with a 19-4 run.
Chris Rajczak (14 points, eight rebounds) was 7 for 9 from the foul line in the second half while Dan Gadawski contributed 13 points and eight rebounds as Grand Island limited Kenmore East to two points in the third quarter of the Vikings' 50-36 win.
NONLEAGUE: Andy Dlugosz (11 points, 11 rebounds) hit two free throws to tie the game with a minute left and Connor Kobis' jumper with three seconds to go lifted Timon-St. Jude to a 55-53 home win over Maryvale after a back-and-forth fourth quarter.