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Middle ends up on top Talent, teamwork lead Kats to rout State championship basketball: Yale Cup winner OTC Middle College takes C title

The name of the team is a mouthful: Occupational Training Center Middle College.

You can just call them "state champs."

Buffalo's OTC Middle College put on its familiar display of talent and teamwork as it routed Maple Hill, 74-41, to win the state Class C championship before an estimated 1,000 Saturday evening at Glens Falls Civic Center.

Middle College, in just its second varsity year, had its four standouts each score more than 14 points while its defense often disrupted the Section II (Albany area) champions.

"It's been an amazing year," said Middle College coach Randall Rich. "I'm proud of each and every one of these kids. It's the ultimate story for these guys."

Junior Davon Alexander had 16 points and 12 rebounds to earn tournament MVP honors. Senior Sean Mulhern had 20 points and 14 rebounds, senior Darale Young had 19 points and seven rebounds while senior Justin Stokes had 14 points, four assists and three steals.

"My team got me the ball and I rebounded well -- but it wasn't a one-man team, it was a family," said Alexander. "Everybody helped. I'm so proud of everybody. This feels so good because we worked so hard."

Young and Stokes were named to the all-tournament team, while in an illustration of the Kats' balance, Mulhern was left off due to a foul-plagued, five-point first game. However, Mulhern's tremendous interior performance earned him Player of the Game on Time Warner Cable's live broadcast.

After the game, the 6-5 senior clutched the most important award -- the state championship plaque shaped like New York State.

"It feels so good to hold this in my hands," Mulhern said, "and it's not because of any one of us, it's because of all 15 of us. We just worked so hard, and it's great knowing that it all paid off. When we come to play, and we play together, this is what happens."

Maple Hill (24-2) brought plenty of red-clad fans from nearby Castleton-on-Hudson -- about 10 miles south of Albany in Rensselaer County -- but as happened in Friday evening's semifinal, Middle College's lead just kept growing.

Middle College (23-1), which won the Yale Cup as the champion of the Buffalo Public Schools, took a 16-9 lead after one quarter and was up, 36-21, at halftime.

The only threat Maple Hill offered was at the outset of the third quarter as it scored the first five points to cut the lead to 36-26. However, the lead would never get into single digits as Middle College overpowered the Wildcats.

Mulhern started an 11-1 run with a big rebound and a putback while being fouled -- he hit the free throw for a 39-26 lead. Mulhern added another putback soon after. Alexander, who had a blocked shot during the run, hit a big three-pointer to make it 45-27. Mulhern then poked a ball loose on defense, and the All-Western New York football lineman quarterbacked a pass ahead to Stokes for a finish while being fouled to make it 47-27 with 4:38 left.

"I'm lost for words," said Stokes. "I want to cry, but I'm too tough to cry. It's an unbelievable feeling.

"We stuck together. That's all we had to do. We wanted to prove everybody wrong that all the balls could go around and everyone could score, and we did it. We stuck to our plan, stuck together as a family, and you see where it got us?"

Middle College is located at 290 Main St., near Swan Street and Erie Community College's downtown campus, and the school is affiliated with ECC.

The public school program is aimed at students who might not otherwise be interested in college and allows students to earn college credits during high school.

"The way we play as a team [is what led to a title]," said Young. "We've been playing like this all year, with the same results. We kept striving hard, we kept working hard, we never got too cocky, and this is what happened."

e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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