The perfect ending for the Nichols boys basketball team came in astounding fashion.
The Vikings got their state title, they got revenge and they even got a shutout in the fourth quarter. Nichols won the final period, 16-0, to turn an outstanding Class A Federation championship battle into a rout as it beat state power Jamesville-Dewitt, 65-43, Saturday night before an estimated 800 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Senior Will Regan was named the tournament MVP with 21 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks and he also became the 15th member of Western New York's 2,000-point club. The 6-foot-8 University of Virginia recruit has 2,008 points, 15th on the all-time list.
"It's a great way to end a career -- it's hard to put it into words to finish it off like that," said Regan. "I couldn't ask for anything more. To end it like this, and to be with a great group of guys and a great team, to be able to battle with them every day in practice for five months, and most of the guys for four years, it means a lot to win it with a group of friends that I'll always have."
Senior Ron Canestro, who was out with a broken finger in Nichols' 71-66 loss to J-D in Syracuse on Jan. 29, made his presence known in a huge way with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, five assists and three steals. The 6-foot guard, a four-year varsity player with Regan, was joined on the all-tournament team by 6-2 sophomore Stan Wier (17 points, 3 of 5 three-pointers, six rebounds).
"I thought they were going to gear on Stan and Will, and hopefully I was going to get some opportunities to get open looks, and hopefully I would knock them down," said Canestro, who went 3 of 7 from three-point range while hitting all six two-pointers, including two slick drives he turned into three-point plays by drawing fouls on mammoth 6-9 sophomore Dajuan Coleman. "I kind of wanted to sneak up on them just because I didn't play them the first time."
The Catholic state champion Vikings (24-7) won just Western New York's second large-school Federation title as the overall state champion. The only other large school crown was also Western New York's most recent Fed title, won by Niagara Falls in Class AA in 2005. It is Nichols' fifth Federation win, which ties them with Long Island Lutheran for second on the all-time list (New York City power Rice has six). Nichols' previous four Fed titles came in Class C.
Nichols won it by hitting plenty of big shots and with plenty of defense in the fourth against the state public school champion from Section III (Syracuse area), which had been undefeated in its previous 25 games this season.
"Some guys made some huge shots and the defense -- to shut those guys out, an undefeated team -- it was just a battle, a war that they decided they were going to win," said coach Greg Plumb, who was a player on Nichols' last Federation title team in 1995. "It was that senior leadership I always talk about."
The Vikings had a 20-14 lead after one quarter and were up, 31-28, at halftime. Nichols led by as many as 14 in the third quarter but J-D cut the lead to 49-43 entering the fourth.
Senior 5-10 point guard Andrew MacKinnon (four assists) handled some intense J-D pressure in the fourth quarter, and a layup by 6-5 senior Conner Vandegriff (six rebounds, two assists) after the Vikings beat some pressure gave them their first double-digit lead in the fourth at 54-43 with 3:13 left. Nichols kept adding to its lead while J-D went 0 for 21 from the field in the fourth.
J-D won the Federation title in 2008 and lost in last year's final to Long Island Lutheran, the team Nichols beat in Friday's semifinals.
"I didn't think in 100 years we'd ever go a quarter without being able to score a basket," said J-D coach Bob McKenney. "They were playing their best basketball right now and they deserved to win this thing."
J-D all-tournament selection Coleman, who set a Federation record with 31 rebounds in the semifinals, had 12 points on 6-of-17 shooting -- mostly battling with Regan in the post -- and had 11 rebounds.