The Yale Cup trophy sat courtside Friday evening, and anyone who walked by could read the inscription in a plaque just below the large silver cup:
"Supremacy in Basketball, Buffalo, New York."
When it comes to East High this season, "supremacy" is definitely the appropriate word.
The Panthers completed an undefeated campaign in the Buffalo Public Schools boys basketball league with a 64-54 win before an estimated 400 in the packed gym of last year's winner, Grover Cleveland.
Senior Dallas Gary (19 points), junior Domonique Jackson (17) and sophomore Tremmell Fisher (16) led an all-around effort for East.
"We came in the gym and we saw the trophy and we knew what we were here for," said Gary. "We came out and played hard, played defense, played as a team."
East entered the fourth quarter with a 34-28 lead, but three-pointers by Gary and Deon Robinson helped them flirt with a double-digit lead.
Grover struggled with its three-point shooting in the third and fourth, but when Ricky Alejandro drained a three from the right corner to cut the lead to 57-54 with 3:20 left, the Grover crowd roared.
But on East's next possession, Jackson answered with his own three from the left corner, bringing the many supporters in black-and-gold to their feet with 2:55 left. Grover wouldn't score again.
East took an 18-12 lead after one quarter as Henry Mingo pogo-sticked his way to a rebound and went right back up to sink a jumper at the buzzer.
The Panthers led by as much as 11 (31-20) in the second quarter before Grover rallied back with a 6-3 spurt. The run, which cut the lead to 34-28 heading to the fourth, included a dunk by Kenyon Edwards (21 points) off a bounce-pass from fellow big man Mike Smith and a last-second steal-and-layup by Chris Holland, who managed a tough finish at an awkward angle in traffic.
"They were just a little too good for us today," said Grover coach Earl Schunk. "We're hoping we get a shot to do it again, because the kids know they can play with them."
East could meet Grover again in the Class A-2 playoffs, which begin next week. The Section VI tournament matchups will be announced today.
Grover came one win from defending its title after graduating its top six players and rebounding after talented starter Melvin Virgil was dismissed from the team in December.
"The way they came together as a group after [they lost Virgil] and the way they played," said Schunk, "I am very proud of the way these guys have hung in there."
East will now seek a second straight sectional title -- to go along with that silver trophy.
"The Yale Cup is fine," said Bryant, "but when we start practice the goal is Glens Falls."