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Top 10 teams show their stuff; Canisius, McKinley, St. Joe's all roll to victories at MLK Classic

Of the eight teams participating in Saturday's Martin Luther King Jr. Classic, three were ranked among the top 10 large schools in Western New York.

And all three showed why.

Canisius, St. Joe's and McKinley rolled to wins during Saturday's event, held at City Honors' new gymnasium.

No. 4 large school Canisius won the day's marquee matchup by defeating No. 1 small school International Prep at Grover Cleveland, 72-52.

That finale was preceded by clear victories by No. 9 large school St. Joe's (69-54 over OTC Middle College) and No. 10 McKinley (69-46 over Sweet Home) as well as by Lafayette, which defeated Lackawanna, 68-56, in the first game of the four-game event hosted by the Buffalo Public Schools.

Canisius (9-4) jumped to a 25-12 first quarter lead behind senior guard Aaron Nevins and junior guard Matt Hart. Hart had 11 of his 19 points in the opening quarter, including three of his four three-pointers. Nevins had nine of his 17 points in the first and he also had eight assists for the game.

"We knew this was a big game and I told the guys at the beginning, these first two minutes are going to be what starts it," said Nevins. "We came in and did it."

Sophomore Adam Weir had 11 points while senior Ring Henry had 13 rebounds for Canisius, which led by 37-19 at the half.

"It was another good test today and I was really happy to come out on top, especially in one of these big ones," said Canisius coach Kyle Husband.

Senior Chris Holland had 15 points while senior Kenny Pringle had 13 for I-Prep (6-3), which cut the lead to 11 in the third quarter but fell back into a 47-32 hole heading to the fourth.

St. Joe's ended up with a double-digit win as a 35-point performance by 6-foot-3 senior Connor Rehbaum helped it overcome a game effort by No. 4 small school OTC Middle College.

The Kats set the pace of the game by with their defensive pressure, but St. Joe's stayed one step ahead by scoring in transition, with Rehbaum often finishing the break.

"They're a tough team -- they play good man-to-man defense and they're quick," said Rehbaum. "You just have to move the ball around and take the open shot when you have it."

St. Joe's (10-4) followed its overtime victory Thursday at No. 6 large school Bishop Timon-St. Jude by using a 21-11 fourth quarter to break away. St. Joe's 6-7 junior Reggie Agbeko scored all 11 of his points in the second half.

The Kats (5-3) lost senior Davon Alexander with an ankle injury late in the first quarter, but they stayed within five at the half and after three quarters. In the third, junior Khalid Brown (20 points) also went out with an apparent ankle injury. Junior Cordell Torres also had 20 for the Kats.

Undefeated McKinley also closed a strong week in which it beat Yale Cup rivals and fellow top 10 large schools East (No. 8) and Riverside (No. 5) with a 69-46 rout of Sweet Home.

Senior John Black had 23 points to lead a McKinley team that was typically deep (11 scorers), unselfish on offense and tough on defense.

"We definitely have a chip on our shoulder," said Black. "For this season we felt like we came in underrated, and now we've proven it to a lot of people. We're playing as a team right now -- that's the No. 1 thing."

Senior Damone Canty added 16 for McKinley (6-0), which used a 20-12 second quarter to take a 36-23 halftime lead. Junior Rashaun Crule led Sweet Home (6-4) with 14 points.

In the first game of the day, Lafayette (2-3) beat Lackawanna, 68-56, behind a 23-point effort by senior Cameron Tucker, an impressive all-around game by senior Davon Ferguson (14 points) and a 22-11 third quarter.

Lackawanna (3-7) has been plagued by player suspensions all season and was again Saturday; senior starters Dondre Alexander and Christian Cheatom did not play. Sophomore Norman Sweat led the Steelers with 17 points.

e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com