After Canisius won the first semifinal in Monday night's Manhattan Cup final four doubleheader, senior leader Matt Hart spoke for many members of Crusader Nation when he said: "I'm rooting for Joe's, I want to play them again and I want to beat 'em again."
But there would be no third meeting of the rivals, because St. Mary's had some school history to make.
St. Mary's pulled off one of the biggest wins in school history as the Lancers beat St. Joe's, 62-45, to advance to its first Manhattan Cup championship game in the 65-year history of the tournament.
The Lancers played terrific defense and shared the ball on offense as it surprised many in the estimated crowd of 1,500 by taking a 16-10 lead after one quarter and continually building on it the rest of the game. St. Mary's, the No. 3 small school in today's poll, was seeded third in the Manhattan Cup tournament while St. Joe's, the No. 3 large school, was second.
St. Mary's will take on Canisius -- a 75-66 winner over Bishop Timon-St. Jude in Monday's first semifinal -- for the Monsignor Martin Association's Manhattan Cup championship at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Koessler Center.
"We set a goal when our staff took over [four years ago] that getting to the Manhattan Cup was going to be objective No. 1," said St. Mary's coach Dan Gill, also the athletic director at the Lancaster school. "And restoring a lot of the tradition and pride that St. Mary's basketball has. As you could tell by the turnout, St. Mary's was well represented in the crowd and we just wanted to compete as hard as we could for those guys that were there before us."
Senior Erik Simmons led St. Mary's with 18 points, and he led the Lancers right from the start with aggressive drives and by hitting jumpers. Senior forwards Devin Redden and Jake Denz both scored 13 points, scoring inside as well as from three-point range (three for Denz, one for Redden). The two forwards were also the primary defenders against St. Joe's 6-8 senior Reggie Agbeko (10 points), who earlier Monday was named one of six finalists for the state's Mr. Basketball.
Senior Kyle Briggs also had 10 points for St. Joe's.
Canisius got its usual balanced scoring from its top four scorers, with Hart leading the way with 23 points and three three-pointers. Junior Adam Weir had 18 points and two threes, junior point guard Aaron White had 13 points and junior Matt MacDonald had 11.
Despite Canisius playing near the top of its game, going up, 21-6, during the first quarter and building as much a 17-point lead (40-23) in the third quarter, Timon stayed within striking range behind seniors Jordan Williams (29 points) and Kyle Kobis (23). Williams hit five three-pointers while Kobis had three.
Timon cut the lead to 64-59 with 1:33 left, but Canisius hit its foul shots the rest of the way on a night in which it sank 20 of 22 from the line. The loss brought an end to the basketball coaching career of Timon coach Jim Palano.