Both coaches feel that the St. Joe's-Canisius rivalry is the best in Western New York high school basketball.
The two teams made a compelling argument to prove that true Sunday in front of an overflow crowd at St. Joe's.
The visiting Crusaders got a game-high 25 points from junior Blair Helton and survived a furious last-minute rally from the Marauders to come away with a 68-66 Monsignor Martin Association win.
Down, 63-51, with 1:10 to play, St. Joe's hit four three-pointers in the final 70 seconds, but Canisius did just enough from the foul line to hold on, allowing coach Kyle Husband to breathe a sigh of relief.
"We're not a very good free-throw shooting team, but we're working at it," Husband said.
Helton went 5 for 6 in the last two minutes, part of a 9-for-12 effort for the Crusaders that clinched the game.
Canisius (14-9, 9-2) trailed, 14-11, after the first quarter but used a 20-4 run at the start of the second quarter to gain a 31-18 lead and take control.
"They were mixing things up on defense, and it threw us off balance," St. Joe's coach Mark Simon said.
After struggling with his shot in the first quarter, Helton discovered it in the second, as his three-pointer with 3:53 left made it 28-18. Canisius also got a big boost from sophomore Aaron Nevins, who had 16 points.
"He came up huge for us," Husband said of Nevins, who started the season on the junior varsity team.
Nevins had a pair of key shots in the second half, first hitting a three-pointer in the third quarter after St. Joe's had cut the Canisius lead to 35-29. Then in the fourth quarter, Nevins scored a driving layup with 4:10 to play to push the Crusaders' lead to 56-45.
Underclassmen played a significant part in the game for both teams, as the Crusaders got just 18 of their 68 points from seniors, while the Marauders got just eight of their 66.
"The future is bright," Simon said.
St. Joe's (12-10, 6-6) struggled without the services of junior Sean Mulhern, who missed a large portion of the game with foul trouble.
Since returning from a foot injury four games ago, Mulhern has provided an offensive boost, but he was never able to get into a rhythm Sunday.
"Not having him in the lineup hurts a lot," Simon said.
In limited minutes, Mulhern was able to pull down a dozen rebounds, while junior Kyle Wojciechowski had 20 points in defeat.
For Canisius, 6-foot-4 senior Andrew Zdrojewski had nine points and 13 rebounds.